Heavyweight contender Walt Harris says his deceased stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard told him in a dream to keep fighting in the UFC.
In October 2019, the 19-year-old Blanchard went missing in Auburn, Alabama, prompting a wide search for her. Tragically, authorities found Blacnhard’s deceased body in the woods 55 miles from Auburn, and the 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed was later charged in Blanchard’s murder. The story made national news not only because it was so tragic and disturbing, but also because Blanchard’s stepfather is Harris, one of the top heavyweights in the UFC.
At the time, Harris took a few months off of fighting to grieve with his family, and many fans and media speculated that his career might be put on hiatus to the death of his beloved stepdaughter. Surprisingly, Harris agreed to return to the Octagon six months later in May 2020, losing via TKO to Alistair Overeem in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card. He later would return in October at UFC 254, losing via TKO once again, this time to Alexander Volkov. Ironically, the fight with Volkov was exactly one year from the day that his daughter Blanchard left this world.
Speaking to “48 Hours,” Harris explained what motivated him to return to the cage so soon after Blanchard’s death. According to “The Big Ticket,” Blanchard appeared in his dream and told him to continue fighting.
“She was sitting in our living room, and there was just a beam of light on her and she had her arms out and I hugged her, and she said, ‘Keep going.’ And I just woke up, like with a renewed vigor, I felt fresh,” Walt Harris said.
Harris’ wife Angela, the mother of Blanchard, was initially surprised her husband wanted to keep fighting but agreed to let him compete after agreeing their daughter would want him to fight again.
“When he first told me, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said, ‘I’m sure.’ And so, I knew how important that this was to him and how important that this would be to her, to Aniah, and that she would want him to do it,” she said.
While Harris didn’t succeed in the fights with Overeem and Volkov, the UFC matchmakers are giving him a pass on those performances, which is understandable given the circumstances, and they kept him on the roster despite the fact Overeem was cut. For his next fight, Harris was matched up with top-15 Marcin Tybura, who he fights on June 5. Even though Blanchard is no longer here, Harris knows that she will always be watching her father fight.
“I will always fight for my baby girl,” Harris said.
MMA journalist, podcast host, and handicapper for MyMMANews.com, BJPenn.com, MMAoddsbreaker.com, EliteFantasy.com, Spectation Sports, and Fanatics MMA. MMAOB Daily Podcast host. Join me LIVE @ 4 pm EST Mon/Tues/Thurs for my live free podcast. Over 10 years of experience writing about MMA. I love this sport.