Walt Harris: Where is Aniah Blanchard’s Stepdad Now?

When 19-year-old college student Aniah Haley Blanchard suddenly disappeared without a trace left behind around the late hours of October 23, 2019, it baffled the entire nation. That’s because, as carefully chronicled in CBS’ ’48 Hours: Fighting for Aniah,’ it was not unlike her to go off the radar, and her abandoned car also contained clear evidence of foul play. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t until November 25 that her body was recovered 55 miles away from her base in Auburn, Alabama, leaving her parents, especially her stepfather, Walt Harris, shattered.

Walt Harris is Athletic and Family-Oriented

Walt was merely a youngster playing basketball at Jacksonville State University with dreams of soon securing a spot in the NBA when he first came across Angela Haley. This divorcee/single mother of two had relocated to his hometown of Homewood just shortly prior to provide her kids with a better life, leading them to have quite a long, meaningful conversation. Little did they know it would result in them getting involved rather quickly, with him immediately assuming the role of a dad too — “He loved them from day one,” Angela once conceded.

The truth is Elijah Jr. and Aliah Blanchard’s biological father was still in the picture, but the gracious understanding these adults had enabled the siblings to have not one but two whole families. Therefore, of course, they were right there when Walt decided to shift gears from pure athleticism to mixed martial arts around 2009/2010, just to then make his professional debut in 2011. He’d actually tied the knot with Angela by this point — January 22, 2010 — following which the support he received from them even enabled him to dive headfirst into the world of UFC in 2013.

Aniah Blanchard Was Walt Harris’ Rock

According to reports, even though Aniah was the youngest in the family until Walt and Angela welcomed two kids of their own, she was the light that guided him through some dark professional times. This was actually to such an extent he still vividly remembers: “She always was the one that was, like, ‘Don’t stop [fighting]. Keep Pushing. Keep Pushing. I know it’s hard [but it’ll be okay].'” It thus comes as no surprise that when she went missing in late October 2019, the then #9 ranked heavyweight fighter, his wife, and other loved ones paused everything just to look for her everywhere.

Walt was actually on a four-fight winning streak at the time and even had a shot at the coveted championship, yet “fighting was the furthest thing from my mind” — his sole focus was finding Aliah. He was glad the UFC community was behind him, with President Dana White plus fellow fighter Jon Jones even donating to the reward ($105,000) set up in the hopes of garnering tips about her whereabouts, but that was the extent of his connection with them at the time. He candidly said in the show, “I was almost a shell of myself. Honestly, I didn’t even know if I’d fight again,” only to later see his stepdaughter in a dream and feel inspired to get back in the ring.

“[Aliah] was sitting in our living room,” Walt stated. “There was just a beam of light on her… and I hugged her, and she said, ‘Keep going.’ I just woke up, like with a renewed vigor, I felt fresh.” The fact her remains had already been located by this point, with her alleged kidnapper turned killer Ibraheem Yazeed also being in police custody for capital murder, had given him a sense of ease too — yes, it was heartbreaking, but at least he had some answers. And in a twist of fate, one of this 6’5″, 250-pound fighter’s next match was on the first anniversary of Aliah’s murder, on October 24, 2020 – he sadly lost, yet he’s glad he fought in her memory.

Walt Harris Has Since Been Suspended From the UFC

Despite the fact Walt had avowed, “Everything for me moving forward is about making [Aliah] proud. Imma always fight for my baby girl,” it came to light in March 2024 that he won’t be allowed to compete in the UFC again for a total of four years owing to steroid use. As per reports, he had tested positive for various kinds of steroids on two separate occasions, leading the Combat Sports Anti-Doping (CSAD) Association to make this significant decision. Though we should mention he was already not very active — the light match he’d taken part in was in June 2021, which he’d lost, making it his third consecutive loss following a four-fight winning streak.

Walt did actually have a contest scheduled against Josh Parisian on July 15, 2023, after his unsuccessful 2020 campaign for a city council seat in his hometown as well as his long two-year break, only for it to be completely scrapped by the CSAD because of his doping. Nevertheless, it’s imperative to note he can compete again from July 2027, and since he hasn’t announced or even indicated retirement, we believe he can very well make a comeback. Until then, this 41-year-old’s professional mixed martial arts record stands at 24 competitions, out of which he won 13, lost 10, and had no results in 1, making his win percentage rather remarkable.

Walt Harris is Still a Dedicated Family Man

Walt may not be actively competing anymore, but he does remain utterly dedicated to not only the sporting world but also his family — his wife Angela, stepson Elijah Jr., son Asah, plus daughter Aylah. Still based in Homewood, Alabama, this proud athlete turned family man turned public figure is currently also making the most of his platform to keep his late stepdaughter’s memories alive. From organizing events to celebrate Aniah to standing by Angela as she evolves into a victim’s advocate, to watching his other children develop their own uniqueness, to himself evolving into someone who isn’t afraid to open up about his past and his decisions as a way to hopefully inspire others, he’s consistently, proudly doing it all right now.

Read More: Angela and Elijah: Aniah Blanchard’s Parents Continue to Keep Her Memories Alive