Alistair Overeem was “fired up” about fighting in an empty arena

Alistair Overeem

UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem says he enjoyed the experience of fighting in an emptied-out arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

Overeem defeated Walt Harris via second-round TKO in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 8 card. Like most sporting events going on during the coronavirus pandemic, this one went down without any fans in attendance — just the fighters, their corners, and the required UFC staff.

Unsurprisingly, this creates a very difficult experience for fighters, but Overeem, who has fought close to 100 times in MMA and kickboxing, and has captured titles in Dream, Strikeforce, and K-1, found the experience enjoyable. In fact, it reminded him a bit of the early days of his MMA career, when his fights went down in smaller venues with far fewer fans in attendance.

“Strange, I was fired up about it,” Overeem told MMA Fighting at the UFC on ESPN 8 post-fight press conference. “This was fight No. 92. It kind of reminded me of my earlier fights. I have to go all the way back to ‘97 when there were like 200 or fewer people in the audience. This was a little bit different though. I don’t know, it motivated me.

“[It was] during a pandemic, first time, so to me it was very interesting tonight,” Overeem added. “No audience. Still you got tensions, still you’ve got the nerves going through you fight day. I don’t know but it was different. It was cool. I liked it. I enjoyed it.”

With his win over Walt Harris, Alistair Overeem rebounded from a tough stoppage loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik back in December. Having rebounded from this loss, he’s now targeting one final UFC heavyweight title run before he retires.

“We’re still hunting for the title,” Overeem said post-fight. “I would say also I’m in the last phase of my career. So those two things are a little bit on my mind, finish the career and then one more run at the title.”

What do you think is next for Alistair Overeem after his big win in Jacksonville?