Alistair Overeem was originally expected to fight Walt Harris in the main event of the UFC’s Saturday night stop in Washington D.C., but Harris withdrew from the matchup amid an unbelievable tragedy.
His daughter went missing in October, and was found dead — the victim of murder — in November.
When Harris withdrew from this fight, Overeem was given a replacement opponent in Jairzinho Rozenstruik. While Overeem is of course focused on the dangerous task ahead, he also feels great sadness for his would-be opponent Harris.
“It’s awful what happened to Walt,” Overeem told the assembled media in Washington D.C. (via MMA Junkie). “I was following it every day — the little bits and pieces coming out. Usually, I’d go on Twitter to follow it. It’s really bad. It’s a really bad situation. I have three daughters, myself. So yeah – no words.”
Despite being scheduled to trade punches with Harris previously, all Overeem would want to offer his rival at this stage is a hug.
“I would give him a hug,” he said when asked what he’d say to Harris. “What can you say to anyone? I can’t really say anything to that. It’s awful, the situation.”
Though not directly involved in this tragedy, it would not be surprising if Overeem’s focus was joggled as he followed the heartbreaking twists of the story. Yet he says he’s been able to separate himself from the situation and focus on Rozenstruik.
“It changed my focus in the sense that my opponent changed,” Overeem said of how this tragedy has affected his fight preparation. “Of course you follow the news. But let’s not forget: It’s not my child; it’s not my relative. It’s a little bit further away from me. But still, you’re like, ‘Hey this (expletive) really happens.’ I went into the statistics and this stuff happens kind of often, too. It’s sad. It’s a really bad thing. I don’t know how to fix that.”
Alistair Overeem and Jairzinho Rozenstruik fight Saturday night on ESPN+.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 12/5/2019.