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Zuhosky’s Take #4: Could PFL Champ Kayla Harrison Run for the UFC When Her Contract Lapses?

Could Kayla Harrison depart from the PFL following the expiration of her current contract at the end of this season? This is a fair question to ask right now.

The 10-0 Harrison is already a proven headliner in the PFL’s women’s lightweight division and has had zero trouble disposing of her rivals inside the cage so far in her young career, most recently scoring another first-round submission due to armbar over Cindy Dandois.

Although the victory did give Harrison the maximum number of points (12) in the regular season this year, it only netted the champion the No. 2 seed in the forthcoming 2021 PFL playoffs, as she locked in the submission one second too late to clinch the top spot in the bracket at 155 lbs.

Kayla Harrison Not Done With PFL Just Yet

She’ll have (at least) one more PFL fight before she enters free agency, the Aug. 27 PFL 9 semifinal fight against No. 3 seed Genah Fabian (4-1 MMA, 2-0 2021 PFL, eight points in the standings). Harrison and Fabian were originally scheduled to square off during the 2019 PFL playoffs before the latter withdrew from the postseason amid weight-cut issues.

Bobbi-Jo Dalziel battled Harrison in Fabian’s absence that October evening less than two years ago, dropping a first-round submission (armbar), en route to Kayla Harrison taking the $1 million prize and championship belt that New Year’s Eve.

Winners in PFL postseason fights will return later this year, at PFL 10: Championships for a guaranteed $1 million (USD) cash prize and a title belt. As it currently stands, Harrison’s last fight in 2021, whenever that happens to be, either this August or on the PFL Championships card– will be her final contracted fight in the PFL.

Back in 2019, the champ signed a contract extension which saw her continue as a member of the PFL’s active roster through the end of this season.

COVID-19 Hits, Resulting in PFL Pause and Harrison Lawsuit

Last year, the PFL, just as all other sports organizations throughout the world had been, was forced to suspend competitions and ultimately postpone its entire third season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of canceled events caused by world events, the PFL offered its active roster a stipend of $1,000 (USD) every month for the rest of 2020, but this wasn’t good enough for Harrison, whose PFL contract called for two bouts minimum last year.

Harrison and featherweight Lance Palmer prepared to file suit against the PFL for breach of contract last October. Yet, the former returned to the MMA cage a month later, on Nov. 20, 2020. Kayla Harrison returned to MMA for the first time in nearly a year during INVICTA FC 43. She defeated Courtney King via second-round knockout (punches) in the co-main attraction, which served as her featherweight debut.

One month later, Harrison was due to fight Jozette Cotton in TITAN FC 66’s women’s lightweight co-main event, a fight that wound up called off due to the latter exceeding the nontitle lightweight maximum by 24 lbs., being hospitalized because of dehydration.

Enter Dana White and the UFC?

Earlier in 2021, the rumor mill looked strong for a partnership between Kayla Harrison and the UFC, as the champion was quoted as saying:

“I think that if Dana’s ready to pay me a lot of money, I’ll make him a lot of money.”

These comments from the champ came in the aftermath of a post-fight interview where UFC President Dana White admitted that he wasn’t too keen on welcoming Harrison to his promotion if she does bolt from the PFL at season’s end, saying in an interview:

“I don’t know if she’s ready. When she feels like she’s ready, I’m always looking for the best possible people to come in and fight. We’ve offered her to come over; I don’t know if her people think she’s ready yet. It’s a whole other level when you get here.”

During the same interview, White named several potential opponents that Kayla Harrison might end up fighting if she leaves the PFL for the UFC:

“Amanda (Nunes), Germaine (de Randamie), Holly (Holm), Aspen Ladd, I mean you got Julianna Pena, the list goes on and on. So it’s a lot tougher when you come over here. So I don’t know if they think she’s ready or not yet, but we’ll find out.”

The Champ Responds

During an interview on the now-defunct Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, Harrison was asked about White’s claims. Harrison responded by mentioning how no UFC deal had been offered yet, saying:

“Not that I am aware of, I mean, I’ve been under contract for the last three years, so I don’t even know. I’m not sure about that, but I have stated many times: I am ready to face the best in the world.”

Hey Dana White, Give Kayla Harrison “the Call” Already!

The last line of the champion’s comments was impactful:

“I have stated many times: I am ready to face the best in the world.”

Let’s not forget that Harrison is an Olympic gold medalist in judo. Therefore, Harrison became the best in the world in that discipline. With contract negotiations nearing for her and her camp, there is no doubt that Harrison will be the most sought-after and most-discussed free agent in the sport of MMA going into the latter part of 2021 and the early part of 2022 if these talks should stretch that far.

It is an insult to Harrison’s mixed martial arts acumen that she has to fight opponents of lower caliber. Harrison has been able to turn her most recent in-cage opponents into mid-card tomato cans, and this PFL season was more proof of that.

If Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, the famed sports entertainer, were still alive today, there’s a good chance that he’d refer to Kayla Harrison’s opponents as “ham-and-eggers.”

It’s time for Harrison to show what she’s really made of.

Final Thoughts

If Kayla Harrison walks away from the PFL after this season and signs a contract with the UFC, she can immediately get a prime spot on the prelims, if not a spot on the main card of an event. This would allow the champ to battle fighters closer to her own caliber and create much better matchups.

All that has to be done is a single telephone call by Dana White.

Follow me on Twitter at @DrewZuhosky to see my latest work. Follow us on social media at @OTHeroicsMMA to stay tuned in with our content! Please visit our web page to keep up with everything MMA!

Featured Image Credits to: Embed from Getty Images

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