NCAA basketball player transitions to UFC

Elias Cepeda

Walt Harris was depressed for a couple years after not making it to the NBA. The former Jacksonville State basketball player had focused like a lazer on making it to the league and when he fell short after college, he was crushed.

Harris recently spoke with about the let down and how it ultimately led him to fighting mixed martial arts (MMA).

“I was looking for something to replace the competitive need I always had and that I used basketball for,” he remembered.

Harris got off his couch and back into the gym, just to get into shape again but was soon spotted by someone who suggested he give fighting a try. Walt visited a local fight gym and got hooked, but was still shocked when his coach suggested he take an MMA fight just six months into his training.

"I thought he was crazy," Harris laughed.

Harris gritted his teeth and went through with the fight, however, and found success to the tune of a 45 second stoppage win. As he continued to fight, the basketball player began to become as comfortable in the ring as he once was on the hardwood.

“You get those competitive butterflies and natural nervousness. But with basketball, after so many games during your life, you get used to them and go out there and do what you’ve trained to do. With MMA, that first time, it was all new techniques to me.”

After amassing a 6-1 pro MMA record, the UFC has come calling for Harris and he is eager to finally reach the professional pinnacle of a sport.

"Fighting in the UFC is a huge honor and means so much to me. I believe I can be a champion and I just want to keep working hard, getting better and showing what I can do," he said.

Harris fights fellow former NCAA Division I athlete, wrestler Jared Rosholt, Saturday on he TUF 18 Finale card in Las Vegas.

Who is your favorite cross-over sport athlete in MMA? We've had a number over the years.

Let us know in the comments section!

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda

What to Read Next