Kayla Harrison is the biggest success story of the 2021 PFL season. Now she’s sitting at a crossroads as a promotional free agent. Harrison, 31, turned to MMA in 2018 after winning his second gold medal at the Olympics in judo. With 12 professional wins under her belt (only two of which hit the judges scorecard), she quickly perfected her skill set as a true power at 155 pounds.
Harrison claimed his second consecutive PFL Women’s Lightweight Tournament title in October, winning his second $1 million grand prize in the process. The question now becomes: what’s next? Let’s take a closer look at three potential picks on the table from the three biggest MMA promoters in the US
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Option 1: Stay cozy in PFL
Advantages: One day salary easily millions of dollars, no need to cut to 145 pounds.
Defect: Without competition, there will be no legacy.
The PFL’s attempts to romance Harrison in another season are the promotion’s most intriguing storyline. Harrison weighed legacy over money, but perhaps there was a deal that could convince her to stay. The PFL recently acquired the first Bellator women’s featherweight champion and Strikeforce veteran Julia Budd (16-3), a valuable addition to the company’s shallow women’s divisions. The battle against Budd will undoubtedly be the most important battle of Harrison’s MMA career. It might not be the most attractive pick on paper, but it’s seen as an important test for Harrison and better prepares her for a fight with the UFC or Bellator. It could also require the promotion of another name, such as the recently released former UFC title challenger Megan Anderson, to make the run more legit. Plus, cashing in on a third $1 million payout never hurts.
Option 2: Go to Cyborg’s domain in Bellator
Advantages: A super battle with Cris Cyborg.
Defect: Half step, weight cut.
If Harrison and the PFL split, the next logical step in the process would be to switch to Bellator. Cris Cyborg remains one of the bigger names in the sports scene. Cyborg (25-2, 1 NC) has only one loss in the last 15 years, and that was a fiery bout with UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes in December 2018. Cyborg and Harrison were the biggest fights to win. Olympic gold medal judo entry outside of the clash with Nunes. Cyborg presents a formidable power threat that Harrison has yet to face and is more than twice as powerful as professional matches. Harrison has had trouble competing in featherweight before, but she says she can do it for the right fight. Additionally, Harrison may have an easier time negotiating a women’s light or heavyweight bout in Bellator than in the UFC. If Harrison can take down Cyborg on his way to a decision or ending, then Nunes’ conquest of the kingdom is certain to happen.
Option 3: Take the Ultimate UFC Challenge
Advantages: Legacy, superstar
Defect: Cutting weight is tough and tough
Nunes vs. Harrison is a fight for die-hard fans, whether UFC president Dana White agrees or not. The list of meaningful, compelling contenders for the two-division UFC championship is fleeting in both the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions. The fight against Harrison was Nunes’ most exciting bout outside of a trio with UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. Harrison has always ventured into MMA with the intention of creating a meaningful legacy. The biggest concern with the jump from Taylor Guardado (3-2) to Nunes (21-4) is the absurd leap in competition level. Nunes’ hit-list includes Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Shevchenko (twice) and Germaine de Randamie. Harrison’s most impressive win was arguably a pair of decisively outperforming Larissa Pacheco. Dropping the required weight to 145 could also put Harrison in harm’s way against the greatest female MMA fighter in history. But, hey, maybe Julianna Pena will show off this whole argument by upset Nunes at UFC 269 on December 11.
Harrison is an outstanding acquisition for any MMA company on earth. With the brains, fortitude, and business savvy to boot, Harrison seems to be in the business of making money however she sees fit.
https://www.cbssports.com/mma/news/kayla-harrison-next-fight-making-the-case-for-the-olympic-gold-medalist-to-sign-with-ufc-bellator-or-pfl/ Kayla Harrison hits next fight: Make case for Olympic gold medalist to sign with UFC, Bellator or PFL