Kayla Harrison is the hottest free agent on the MMA market today. As a mother and the desire to be the best in the world, Harrison is looking for a new place to call home in mixed martial arts, but knows her worth and refuses to settle for less.
Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in Judo, transitioned into mixed martial arts in 2016 with the World Series of Fighting, initially as a commentator. A little over two years later, Harrison made her debut with the promotion, redubbed the Professional Fighters League. Today, Harrison is a two-time PFL champion with an undefeated record of 12-0 and she’s ready to take the next step towards greatness.
The Road Ahead
“I said before the season was over that I know the PFL and Ali were trying to get a deal done before the finals – it didn’t come to fruition,” Kayla Harrison said while speaking to TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter. “I just made it very clear that I would be happy to stay there for a certain amount of money. Legacy is so important to me, it is the thing to me. I don’t fight to be famous, I don’t fight to be rich, I don’t fight for anything other than I want to be the best in the world and I love the pursuit of greatness. That’s my passion. Being able to use the platform to do good things for the world, that’s what motivates me.”
As she began her pro MMA career, Kayla was focused on being the best in the world and pursuing greatness. Recently she has found a new motivation; being a mother. In 2019, Harrison’s mother, who had custody of her niece and nephew, suffered a stroke. Knowing the recovery would be a tough road ahead, Harrison became the guardian of her niece and nephew.
“I said, ‘Let me take them. I can do it,’” Harrison said. “When it’s do or die and it comes to that moment when sh*t gets real, who you gonna call? You call Kayla. That’s my job. That’s what I do. I rise to the occasion. I consider this no different. I’m gonna rise to the occasion for these kids and give them the best possible life I can.”
Fighting for more than herself and her legacy, Harrison realizes that she is at a crossroads in her career. “I have other responsibilities now that I have to put into play. It’s not just about selfishly what’s best for me and what I want, I have to think about my family now and that weighs heavy on my mind and my heart. So it’s gonna play a role in where I go and what I do.”
There is certainly no shortage of options for Harrison when it comes to where she will fight next. MMA fans have been salivating for a fight between Harrison and the UFC’s featherweight queen Amanda Nunes for some time. Unfortunately, it is looking less and less likely that Harrison makes her way to Vegas.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports, UFC President Dana White questioned Harrison’s place in the pound-for-pound rankings. “Kayla Harrison hasn’t fought anybody yet,” White said. “She hasn’t fought anybody. Let me put Amanda Nunes in with the girls that (Kayla has) fought, it might be the first death in MMA. OK?” And listen, I like her. I got nothing against her. But come on, let’s be honest. Let’s be honest.”
Harrison responded to White’s criticism. “That’s what he does,” Harrison said. “That’s his job. I’m gonna talk about how I’m the greatest of all time, and he’s gonna talk about, ‘Well, calm down. No, you’re not.’ This is a game. This is a business. The difference is I really am gonna be the greatest of all time. He’s gonna see.”
Recent reports indicate the UFC will not make a hard push to sign Harrison due to the high price tag, but there is another suitor for Harrison’s services.
Cyborg vs. Harrison
At Bellator 271 on November 12, featherweight champion Cris Cyborg defended her title successfully against challenger Sinead Kavanagh. After the fight, John McCarthy asked what she thought about fighting Harrison, who happened to be in the crowd. “If she wants to fight me, she knows where I’m at,” said Cyborg.
When Harrison met with Bellator officials, she stated that, “It went well. Bellator CEO Scott Coker was much more open about his interest in signing the two-time gold medalist.
“I think that we would love to have, you know, a bigger conversation and see if we can come to some type of arrangement,” Coker said of the possibility of signing Harrison. “I mean, listen, it’s not just Kayla, but it’s really any free agent that’s out there that’s at that world-class level, you know, that we feel could add value to the company. We want to go sign them.”
No matter where the road leads, whether it is on a collision course with Cyborg or circling back home to the PFL, Kayla Harrison is ready to prove her critics wrong and leave an undeniable legacy.
“I’m very confident that I can do it all,” she said. “I’m confident I can make everything I want to happen, happen and it might not be on everyone else’s timeline, but I know that I can make it happen on my timeline, whatever that looks like. If it’s tomorrow, six months from now, I have the utmost faith in my coaches, my team, my manager, and me to create the legacy I want while still getting paid. I think I can have it all, which may be crazy, but I have that belief. I know I work hard, I know I deserve it, and I’ll get there.”
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