UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem was expected to fight Walt Harris on Saturday in the main event of UFC on ESPN 7 in Washington D.C.
Overeem instead spent the first few minutes of his Thursday media day appearance sending out condolences to Harris and his family.
Harris withdrew from the fight in October days after his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard went missing in Alabama. The story that captivated the mixed martial arts world came to a tragic conclusion last week when the 19-year-old Blanchard’s remains were discovered. Three men have been charged in connection to her abduction and murder.
Overeem will instead fight rising star Jairzinho Rozenstruik on Saturday, though Harris is still on his mind.
“I was following the news very much,” Overeem said Thursday. “It’s just very sad how it came to a conclusion. It escalated from bad to worse. My heart goes out to him and his family.”
Overeem said he and Harris met a few months ago on a promotional tour when the fight was first announced and “instantly” became friends.
“We’ll see each other again,” Overeem said. “Maybe we’ll fight. Maybe not. That’s a whole other thing. As a human, it’s just terrible what happened.”
Now Overeem’s focus must be turned to Rozenstruik, who is 3-0 with three knockouts in the UFC. His last two wins have taken a combined 38 seconds.
Rozenstruik, a 31-year-old former pro kickboxer from Suriname, is looking to take a huge step up in the rankings by adding Overeem’s big name to his list of knockouts. Overeem, 39, is looking to complete his career with the one piece missing from his resume.
“My career would not be complete without (the UFC belt),” the former DREAM and Strikeforce champ said.
The main card, which airs on ESPN at 6 p.m., also includes a women’s strawweight contender bout between Cynthia Calvillo and Marina Rodriguez. Calvillo missed weight by 4.5 pounds on Friday in her return to action for the first time since February.
Four fights from the preliminary card will air on ESPN at 4 p.m., with three fights streaming on ESPN-Plus beginning at 2:30.
Edgar steps in
Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar has agreed to step in for the injured Brian Ortega to take on “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in the main event of UFC Fight Night 165 in Busan, South Korea on Dec. 21.
Edgar had been slated to drop to 135 pounds and make his bantamweight debut against Cory Sandhagen on Jan. 25. That fight may still happen, depending on how Edgar comes out of the Dec. 21 bout.
Ortega was forced to withdraw from the bout because of a partial ACL tear.
White provides updates
UFC president Dana White has addressed several major storylines during a promotional tour over the last few days.
During an appearance on Rich Eisen’s radio show, White said a third fight between heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and former two-division champ Daniel Cormier would “100 percent” happen in early-to-mid 2020.
Miocic is still recovering from an eye injury suffered during his win over Cormier in August.
White then addressed a potential deal with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and future plans for Conor McGregor during an interview with radio star Jim Rome.
He said McGregor wants to get through Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in January and then book a rematch with lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov as soon as possible.
White was less clear about his plans with Mayweather apart from indicating the two made a handshake deal while sitting courtside at a Clippers game in Los Angeles last month.
“We have a deal,” White said. “And if things play out the way Floyd and I think they will, I’ll probably sit down with Al Haymon in March and get a deal on paper. Let’s see how the next few months play out. We could be doing something fun, probably. I think if everything goes our way, Floyd and I would be doing something in October or November.”
Mayweather posted on social media he planned to come out of retirement in 2020, though it came just hours after he closed the door on a return to boxing.
Former UFC two-division title challenger Liz Carmouche has been released by the organization, ESPN reported Friday.
Carmouche lost to Ronda Rousey in a 2013 bantamweight title bout that served as the first female fight in UFC history. Her last fight was a flyweight title loss to Valentina Shevchenko in August.
The 35-year-old former Marine was the first openly gay fighter in the UFC. She was ranked No. 4 in the flyweight division in the organization’s most recent rankings.
According to her manager, Carmouche learned the news while she was in Washington D.C. doing promotional work for Saturday’s UFC card.
■ Saturday: UFC on ESPN 7 (ESPN), Washington, D.C.
■ Dec. 14: UFC 245 (ESPN Plus), T-Mobile Arena
■ Dec. 20: Bellator Salute to the Troops (Paramount), Honolulu
■ Dec. 21: UFC Fight Night 165 (ESPN-Plus), Busan, South Korea