Andre Fili’s Journey: From Dog’s Death to UFC 296 Knockout Triumph

UFC fighter Andre Fili won his first knockout in over four years at UFC 296, but the victory was overshadowed by personal tragedies, including the death of his dog Harley just days before the fight and the loss of two friends during his preparation for the match.

Andre Fili’s fight week should’ve been dominated by his first knockout in over four years. But, UFC 296 will be remembered differently.

The days leading up to the fight were a whirlwind. Saturday saw Fili secure a stunning first-round TKO against Lucas Almeida. It was a return to the win column, keeping his UFC record above .500.

But, the victory was bittersweet. Fili, a 14-year veteran, entered the fight with a heavy heart. He’d just lost his beloved dog, Harley. The loss happened a day before he flew to Las Vegas to compete.

Fili shared his story on The MMA Hour. “It was really tough,” he admitted. He didn’t grow up with pets, but Harley became his best friend over the past eight years. Fili had mentally prepared for Harley’s aging, but not for his sudden departure.

Dogs are always in the moment, Fili noted. They don’t show a lot of pain. Harley had a tumor that Fili wasn’t aware of.

One Sunday, Harley seemed fine. By Monday, he wasn’t moving and struggled to breathe. Fili was due to fly out Tuesday. The timing was terrible.

Fili hoped for a simple treatment to restore Harley’s health. But, the vet’s diagnosis was grim.

Fili recalled the conversation. “I’m expecting some antibiotics or some expensive bulls***,” he said. But the doctor’s face told a different story. Harley had an aggressive tumor causing internal bleeding and blood loss.

The options were bleak. A risky, invasive surgery and chemo, or putting Harley down. Fili had an hour and a half to decide and say goodbye. Amid weight cutting and packing for fight week, he made the heartbreaking decision.

But Harley’s death wasn’t Fili’s only recent loss. Two friends had also passed away during his preparation for UFC 296. These experiences hurt, but also offered perspective.

One friend was hit by an Amazon truck while riding his Harley Davidson. Another friend, known for 20 years, overdosed.

Fili had two choices: wallow in grief or learn from it. He chose the latter, appreciating each moment as a gift.

Despite everything, Fili persevered. He took out Almeida in a round, scoring his first finish since July 2019. His performance and celebration hid his inner turmoil.

Once alone, Fili finally broke down. He’d practiced gratitude throughout fight week. But, in the solitude of an elevator, he allowed himself to grieve.


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