Combat Sports

2 Olympic Gold Medals, 2 PFL Championships: What’s Next for Kayla Harrison?

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The 2021 PFL season has come to an end, and much like the conclusion of the 2019 season, Kayla Harrison has once again slain the competition en route to her second championship. She now holds a flawless professional record of 12-0 with ten of these wins coming via finish. The most recent being her 2021 PFL championship victory against Taylor Guardado. And with this most recent win to cap off Harrison’s 2021 season, she now will become the most lucrative free agent in mixed martial arts.

So, the question must be asked. What’s next for Kayla Harrison? And this is a question that encompasses a few different things, but all of which combine together for what the eventual answer may be. Option one could be a third season with the PFL. An organization that has essentially built a women’s lightweight division around Harrison. Not to mention she is the biggest star for them, across all weight divisions, and has proven to be quite the commodity for their company. But, the level of competition is what may steer Harrison away from returning.

What Does The Future Hold For Kayla Harrison?

Could Bellator be the rightful next step for the young phenom and a potential matchup with Cris Cyborg? The trash talk has already begun between these two following Harrison’s 2021 PFL semifinals victory and Cyborg is more than welcome to the challenge. This would be a perfect step up in competition for Harrison from her PFL opponents and would grant her the opportunity to add a legend of women’s mixed martial arts to her resume. Not to mention, Bellator has a much more vibrant featherweight division with more upside than other leagues.

Or is the premier MMA organization all but a lock? The UFC is obviously the largest player in the business and would allow Harrison to truly prove she is the greatest female fighter on the planet, a goal she has set out to do from the start. Not to mention her star power and following that is already quite large for a non-UFC fighter, would only continue to skyrocket, especially if she comes right in and sticks to her winning ways. And who stands in her way from accomplishing this? Her American Top Team training partner, and one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters to ever walk the earth, Amanda Nunes. Just a few short days ago, Dana White was asked about Kayla Harrison, and he definitely didn’t hold back how he felt. However, could this all just be a part of his negotiating tactics?

In case you didn’t notice, there is still one caveat in the previous two scenarios listed above becoming a reality. Kayla Harrison is a lightweight. Now, she has in fact fought at featherweight one time in her career at Invicta FC 43. Harrison would come out victorious in this fight and quite convincingly, so much so her opponent looked like she had just got offset of a 1980s slasher flick upon the conclusion of the fight. However, this was a one-off event thus far for Harrison. Permanently moving to 145 pounds would require a lifestyle change in order to succeed in the long run. However, being that Harrison has been competing in combat sports since the age of six, this is a chance that she would surely tackle head-on in order to keep her dreams of greatness alive. 

If there is one thing to be certain about, it is that Kayla Harrison will stop at nothing to accomplish her goals. A role model for many, she is open about the hardships in her past that have molded her into the woman she is today. Surviving sexual abuse and empowering others that have shared this unfortunate position to keep on pushing. An advocate of mental health and proving that even the most dominant athletes in the world struggle just as much as the “average joe”. A parent of two, since adopting her niece and nephew after tragedy struck her family. You cannot undervalue who Kayla Harrison is as a person, and whether you love her or hate her as a fighter, you must respect her. 

So, what comes next for the two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time PFL champion? It appears only time will tell, as Harrison will surely be a topic of discussion for the MMA community during her free agency. Keep your eyes peeled, as we can assure you the second a decision is made, there will be a plethora of opinions and takeaways to catch up on.

Featured Image Credits to Cooper Neill / PFL

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Dominic Sallee is a Combat Sports writer. He focuses primarily on the UFC, with plans to venture out with pieces from other MMA organizations in the future. Along with writing, Dominic is also the Co-Host of the Below Average Joe's MMA Podcast, which produces 2-3 new episodes per week about all things in the MMA community!