Walt Harris: Never Say Never
Photo: Dana Fox (@mamafox)
These were the thoughts and eventual words of UFC Heavyweight Walt Harris (10-7, 10 KOs). After a year of inactivity due to reasons not of his own, Harris was prepared to face the sobering reality that his dream of fighting professionally, would remain only a dream. With no income coming in from the fight game, moves needed to be made. And fast. “I had to get a job man,” Harris recalls. “It wasn’t fair to let my wife work so hard on her own. It wasn’t fair to let her put in so many hours while I chase a dream.” Harris had taken the first step away from the sport when he called his manager in tears, telling him he had quit. Naturally, his manager told him to be a little more patient; Walt wasn’t hearing it. Shortly after, he went to his brother’s home to relax a bit before reality fully hit him. Walt’s entire life would be changed when he left, however. “I was at my brother’s house just chilling and unwinding when I got a call from my manager,” he remembers. “I thought he was gonna say something like just hang in there man, or just be patient a little while longer.” What his manager actually called to tell him was the furthest thing on his mind; he had been picked up by the UFC. “When my manager called and told me that I just burst into tears. I remember feeling happy, then just being overwhelmed by joy. I was so happy I threw on my shoes and just ran through the neighborhood screaming. The only thing that comes close to this feeling was the birth of my first child.”
Dream achieved. Mission complete. The end.
Not quite. After two tough back to back losses, Harris was released from the UFC. In what was self-described as “the worst day of his life,” Harris was a broken man. So broken, he turned to highly detrimental habits to help put the pieces back together. Thankfully, he had enough support around him to break out of his stupor and heal, both physically and mentally. Harris says being healthy, mentally was the key. When asked if focusing on the mental game more so than the physical game was key, he quickly agreed.“Definitely. After I got cut from the UFC I started working on my mental space. I started meditating, reading good books, praying more, anything that would bring me peace. Me going into the cage and having so much on my mind really negatively affected my performance. I was doing my training camps in South Florida, away from my wife and kids. I was adding more stress to myself from that. Then I would go into the cage feeling like I had to be perfect instead of just fighting and that’s how I came up short.”
After “taking it back to the basics,” the dream would continue. One KO victory later Harris would once again be signed to the UFC. The quick changes of fortune has made him fully aware of just how quickly life can change. “I’ve seen it all man,” he reminisces. “I’ve been on top of the world and I’ve been under it. Never say never. That experience just helps me to always be appreciative. You see fighters when they come out and they’re scowling and mean-mugging. Not me. Not me. I’m smiling. I’ve got too much to be thankful for and I know how quickly it can all be gone. And that’s one thing I wanna tell anybody who reads this. It’s not over until YOU say it’s over. Other people might say it’s over, and it might look like it’s over. But it’s not over until you decide in your heart that it’s over.”
Harris now prefers to live life one day at a a time and enjoy every moment, something we all would be wise to do.
He is scheduled to face Daniel Spitz on June 1, 2018 at UFC Fight Night 131 in Utica, New York.