JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Walt Harris lost his first UFC fight since the death of his stepdaughter.
Alistair Overeem stopped Harris in the second round of UFC's Fight Night main event on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time), ending what was an emotional return for the heavyweight fighter known as The Big Ticket.
Harris was a slight favorite and the sentimental choice as he entered the octagon for the first time since his 19-year-old daughter, Aniah Blanchard, was killed in Alabama.
Harris (13-8) pointed to the sky while showing off a "Fighting for Aniah" T-shirt as he walked into the arena. It appeared he would notch his 14th career knockout when he dropped Overeem in the opening round. But the veteran regrouped on the eve of his 41st birthday and dominated the rest of the way. Overeem (46-18) sent Harris to the mat for the final time with an unblocked combination early in the second.
Harris never recovered, and the referee called it after a bevy of unanswered shots to the head. Overeem shared a moment with Harris on the mat.
Harris thanked the UFC, his team and his community while fighting back tears.
"I'm sorry I didn't get the W for you tonight," Harris said. "You've been like my family through everything, and I'm so grateful. ... Y'all at home watching, I'm sorry. I'll be back better, I promise you. You haven't seen the last of The Big Ticket. I'm going to go home, recover. I'm going to heal emotionally and physically, and I promise you I'll be better."
Harris' wife encouraged him to return to the octagon after more than six months of grieving.
Blanchard, a student at Alabama, was last seen October 23 at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama. Her SUV was found abandoned days later more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away at an apartment complex in Montgomery. Police said her blood was found in the car. Her remains were discovered in a wooded area in late November.
Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, was charged with capital murder. The medical examiner determined Blanchard died from a gunshot wound.
Prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty if Yazeed is convicted. Two others have been charged with hindering the investigator or helping Yazeed dispose of evidence.
Harris and Overeem served as the main event for the UFC's third show in Jacksonville in eight days, all part of the series' return following an eight-week hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The UFC will take the next two weeks off before fighting May 30. It hopes to return to Las Vegas, but first needs clearance from the Nevada Athletic Commission.