UFC on ESPN 8’s Alistair Overeem Wants Heavyweight Division Moving, but Against Stripping Miocic

Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris were scheduled to headline UFC on ESPN 7 last December. Then, the unthinkable happened: Harris’ step-daughter, Aniah Blanchard, was abducted and murdered.

Harris withdrew, and Overeem was paired up with Jairzinho Rozenstruik. That didn’t go so well for “The Reem” in the end — after dominating the bulk of the fight, he was knocked out with ten seconds remaining. Now, Overeem (45-18, 1NC) is set to meet Harris again, atop a rebuilt, rescheduled UFC on ESPN 8. The card takes place in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday, sans fans.

At a virtual media day Thursday, Cageside Press asked about separating Harris the opponent from everything else. “I just see Saturday’s fight as a sport event,” said Overeem. “Outside of that, I met him once, he’s a cool, guy, we got along.”

It’s just business, in other words. The fight, mind you, has been anything but business as usual. The bout was originally supposed to take place in April, but the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in the works.

Adjusting his camp “actually went a little bit automatic,” revealed Overeem. “A little break after the postponement/cancellation. And then I just got back on the horse.”

“I actually think the break was good for me. Your body can heal up mid-camp,” he added.

One big subject of conversation of late has been the heavyweight title picture. There has been talk of champ Stipe Miocic being stripped. Which seems like insanity, given Miocic is a first responder (a firefighter) working during a global pandemic.

But hey, welcome to the UFC.

“I think they need to keep [the division] moving,” said Overeem — but he stopped short of suggesting the champ hand over the belt. “Stripping is a very big word, right? Because that would mean refusal to fight. And when was the last fight, a couple months ago, half year ago? Maybe an interim belt would be a better solution.”

“I think stripping is very hard, and also, he’s an accomplished champion,” continued Overeem. “He’s been doing it, he did it, I don’t really think he’s afraid or anything. It could be timing for him, he’s got other obligations. They need to get that interim belt in there.”