Kayla Harrison is training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing. She has offers on the table from multiple mixed martial arts promotions.
But the two-time Olympic judo gold medalist still has not made a firm decision on whether or not MMA will be in her future.
"I can't answer that right now," Harrison told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I just don't know. At the end of the day, I miss competing. I'm not gonna lie to you. I miss that feeling of stepping onto a mat and being the best in the world at what I do and forcing someone to submit. I miss that. But I don't know if I'm gonna find that in MMA or if I'm gonna find that down other avenues."
The issue for Harrison, who won her second gold medal over the summer, is what constitutes MMA currently. Frankly, it is not a sport based solely on merit and Harrison knows it. She said as much right after winning gold in the Rio Olympics. In prize fighting, the fighters rewarded are the ones who draw money for promotions. Harrison would prefer something closer to a true sport, not a form of entertainment like MMA.
"I wouldn't say that I'm not interested, but I will say that I'm interested in MMA in an aspect where competitors are treated as competitors and not as celebrities or as showman," Harrison said. "All I mean when I pooh-pooh'd [MMA] was I'm not interested in being a talker or someone who is just all about the show. I want t do my show in the cage, on the mat or wherever that is."
Harrison, 26, knows about that side of MMA very well. She's a former judo teammate of Ronda Rousey and the two remain friends to this day. Rousey's charisma and willingness to speak her mind made her a huge star. That and her dominant performances and looks launched her into becoming the biggest mainstream celebrity the UFC has ever known.
"I love competing and I love fighting, but i'm not a big talker," Harrison said. "Ronda and I were teammates for years, but Ronda is much more controversial than me. She's not afraid to say ‘screw you' to whoever she feels like it and that is something I applaud her for. I'm a little more diplomatic, I would say."
Harrison said she has asked Rousey some advice about a potential MMA crossover, especially regarding weight class. Harrison competed in the Olympics at around 172 pounds, which is not near any MMA women's MMA division. Rousey assured her, Harrison said, that the weight cut is not nearly as bad as it is in judo when weigh-ins are the same day. Harrison said Rousey told her that once she starts training in multiple disciplines, the weight will come off easily.
Rousey won the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics at about 154 pounds and now she fights at 135. Harrison believes she wouldn't have too much trouble making 145 to compete in the women's featherweight division, but to make 135 she'd "have to cut both legs off."
All of this is assuming Harrison does make that leap.
"I'm not against MMA," she said. "I'm not against fighting. I just want to fight at he highest level I can in sport and do it with a certain amount of respect. If there's a company out there that's willing to work with me in that aspect, then I'll never say never."
Harrison said she has received multiple offers from MMA promotions, but she is no rush to make any decisions. She's still riding the wave of her second gold medal. In 2012, she became the first U.S. judoka — man or woman — to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport. Once all the appearances, speeches and parties over, Harrison said she'll get back in the gym and try sparring.
"I know that day is gonna come when I get punched in the face," Harrison said. "Maybe I love it and maybe I hate it."
And even if she loves it, there's no guarantee that Harrison will find a comfortable fit for herself in a sport that is very much based on money over merit. Just ask Jose Aldo.
"At the end of the day, I've gotta go with what my heart and my gut tells me," Harrison said. "I don't know. I've gotta figure it out."