UFC makes an example of Harris with 4-Year Ban

March 25, 2024
3 weeks

Walt Harris was once considered one of the UFC’s best heavyweight fighters. While he never won the championship, he fought the top guys in the division and regularly got paid big sums of money to be part of big fights. Now, he’s banned for four years after testing positive for steroids. Is this the end of his fighting career?

What is the Ruling?

The official UFC statement on Walt Harris notes he tested positive for multiple banned substances in the Combat Sports Anti-Doping (CSAD) tests. The UFC has ruled that Harris will be banned/made ineligible for competition for four years. The tests were taken initially in July 2023, and it was ruled that the ban would be backdated to that point, leading to a potential return in July 2027.

This is the first landmark ruling or decision that the UFC has had to make under the new CSAD system, having separated from USADA last year. The UFC may be trying to set a precedent in this new anti-doping era by giving Harris a lengthy ban that could end his career. No other fighter would want to have this fate and see their career cruelly taken away from them.

This punishment could have been heightened because of Harris’ many previous offenses with drug misuse. This is not the first time he has tested positive for banned substances that enhance performance. Therefore, this makes him the perfect fall guy for the UFC to make an example with a stern punishment.

Difficult for Harris to Fight in UFC Again

It’s improbable that Walt Harris will ever fight in the UFC again. He’s 40 years old and has yet to have his birthday this year. If his ban is not lifted, extended, or altered, he can fight in the UFC in July 2027, when he will be 45. Even if he manages to get a fight at the earliest opportunity, he will have been out of competitive action for over six years, having not fought since his first-round loss to Marcin Tybura in 2021. This extended time out will lead to failure. He’ll drastically drop the rankings, lose momentum, lose his fighting ability, and his advancing years will distort his athletic attributes. It would make MMA breaking news if he were to return and have any level of success!

What Does Harris Do Now?

It’s important to remember that Combat Sports Anti-Doping has administered Walt Harris’ ban. They work for the UFC, so this promotion is where he is banned. If he can get out of his UFC contract, he’ll be able to fight elsewhere. Of course, any other promotion would have to consider the moral implications of accepting a fighter who is banned elsewhere. 

Harris could attend the PFL, Bellator, ONE Championship, or elsewhere. He’d still be a big draw and probably have a greater chance of winning the heavyweight championship in those promotions. Harris, however, loves to box in the cage. Instead of returning to the cage, a better idea could be to start a boxing career. After all, he was an amateur boxer before turning to MMA, having won the Golden Gloves championship in Alabama and Georgia.

If he wants to fight in the UFC again, he could do his best to train his hardest with multiple weekly gym sessions, sparring, and keeping clean from substances until July 2027 – and then pitch himself as a returning fighter to Dana White. It’s a long shot, but if it gains traction and sells PPVs, White will undoubtedly let it happen.

The BKFC is a fascinating hybrid that mixes fighting and boxing under one roof and attracts many former MMA participants. There couldn’t be a better time to join the BKFC, given that a wealth of heavyweights is on the roster. Harris could keep busy by fighting on the cards in North America and Europe and earning a title shot.

Or, at the age of 40, Harris could simply end his fighting career. His overall 13-10 (1) record might not be the shiniest of all resumes, but he was very relevant in the UFC alongside top names like Alistair Overeem, Serghei Spivac, and Alexander Volkov. In 2020, Harris had a brief political career as he stood for election in a city council seat with the local government of Homewood, Alabama. If he’s not training for a fight, he could go into politics full-time and try to become a fledgling politician to serve his home state.

However, given this misdemeanor and ruling, it could be feasible for Harris to want a life outside of the limelight, away from the gaze of MMA news sites. Fighting elsewhere or pursuing politics may bring him and his family unwanted attention. He previously worked in humble roles as a delivery driver and furniture mover. 

Take a Side Step

While Walt Harris might be banned from competing in the UFC and realizing his dreams at the promotion summit, that doesn’t mean he can’t help someone else discover theirs. He could find a local MMA gym and coach upcoming fighters. His experience would be invaluable to those trying to break into the UFC or the top echelon of MMA. Given that he ran for a political position, he will have a decent level of communication skills, which could help him succeed at the side of the cage.

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By Dean McHugh.