After close to two months with no major sports in the US, the UFC is trying to make up for it in a week.
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night dubbed “Overeem vs Harris” (Alistair Overeem vs Walt Harris) caps the hat trick of events in Jacksonville.
Colorado sports fans and bettors won’t complain. It gives them more sports to watch while giving prospective bettors the chance to get even more sports betting practice since the launch on May 1.
Similar to the first two events, Saturday’s UFC Fight Night will take place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with no fans in attendance.
Overeem vs. Harris was originally slated to headline the UFC’s return to Portland on April 11 but the entire show was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What: UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Harris
Where: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL
Watch: ESPN, prelims and main card
There are currently five apps for Colorado sports bettors to use. That is out of 17 that will launch in the future.
- DraftKings: Partner with Golden Mardi Gras
- FanDuel: Partner with Golden Gates Casino
- BetMGM: Partner with Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino
- BetRivers: Partner with J.P. McGill’s Hotel and Casino
First fight back after tragedy
Fighters draw inspiration in various ways.
Some get it from being viewed as the underdog.
Others get it from events in their lives.
For Harris, it’s from the loss of his stepdaughter.
Aniah Blanchard went missing last October and was found dead of a gunshot wound the following month.
Harris (13-7, 1 no contest), who is unbeaten in his past four fights, talked with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi about his return to the Octagon.
“If I can be quite candid, it was hard, but I knew I had to do it and I knew she wanted me to do it, because I was going off the deep end,” Harris told ESPN in a powerful interview. “Yeah. I mean, there were days I didn’t want to wake up. Just drinking a lot. Self-medicating, trying to find a way to cope, you know.”
For the first few weeks, Harris was understandably lost in a state of confusion and grief.
He was unsure of his future.
Harris wasn’t even sure if he wanted to fight again.
Fighting for his stepdaughter
Around the time he and his family were planning the memorial service for his stepdaughter, he said he had a dream about her.
“And she just hugged me and told me, ‘Daddy, I’m OK,’” Harris told ESPN. “And that’s what she would always say. I have it on video. She would say things like that to me all the time. ‘It’s going to be OK.’ And from that day on, I went the opposite direction.”
It was after his dream that Harris knew it was time to get back in the Octagon.
He told his manager to give him until March or April, but to tell the UFC that he’s ready to fight.
Saturday is the culmination for Harris and his family.
He enters the fight as a slight favorite.
“Oh, she’s in there with me, for sure,” Harris told ESPN. “There’s a different level of motivation for me right now. I’m on a different plane, you know? I look at it like I’ve seen the worst thing a human can possibly see, so there’s not a thing a man in a cage can ever do to me. I’ve never been afraid of anybody, ever, so you add that on top of fuel of, you know, I’m fighting for my daughter, I’m fighting against myself in some ways, battling to keep pushing, and it’s a dangerous mixture for an opponent. I’ll say it like that.”
Looking to rebound
For Overeem (45-18, 1 no contest), his motivation comes from a love for the fight game.
One of the most decorated heavyweights in MMA history, the 39-year-old could start to take “easier” fights against fellow aging veterans.
But as the UFC website said, that’s not how the Dutch superstar is wired.
Overeem enters Saturday’s fight having won two of his last three bouts. However, he was knocked out in his most recent fight in December by Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
“I think I’m very competitive by nature,” Overeem told the UFC website prior to his December fight. “With everything I do, I have to win. It could be a game of cards, a game of chess, whatever — I want to win — and what you’re seeing with the fight game is channeling that competitiveness into the preparation and it’s paying off.
“I’m still enjoying every day, every second and still creating that development in myself as a fighter, which shows in my results.”
Now both Overeem and Harris look to prove they deserve a shot at the heavyweight title.
UFC Fight Night card and odds
Heavyweight: No. 8-ranked Alistair Overeem (+130 DraftKings) (+134 FanDuel) vs No. 9 Walt Harris (-155) (-158)
Women’s Strawweight: No. 6 Claudia Gadelha (-200 DK) (-225 FD) vs Angela Hill (+160) (+186)
Featherweight: No. 15 Dan Ige (+110 DK) (+114 FD) vs No. 11 Edson Barboza (-137) (-134)
Middleweight: Eryk Anders (+130 DK) (+136 FD) vs Krzysztof Jotko (-165) (-160)
Featherweight: No. 14 Song Yadong (-190 DK) (-178 FD) vs No. 15 Marlon Vera (+155) (+150)