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Kayla Harrison expects ‘big things’ for Ronda Rousey in comeback

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ronda Rousey has lost before Holly Holm. Kayla Harrison knows that. She was there.

Harrison, the two-time Olympic judo gold medalist, is Rousey's former teammate in the sport and something of a protege of the UFC phenom. Those expecting Rousey to not be the same in her comeback fight against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, Harrison said, just don't get it.

"People act like this is the first loss in her life, but it's not," Harrison told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "She's lost on the highest stages. She's lost at the world championships, she's lost at the Olympics. She's lost on the biggest stages and she's found a way to come back and be better than ever. So I'm not surprised at all and I expect big things from her. A true champion isn't defined by when they win, but when they lose and what they do about it."

Rousey lost to Holm by second-round knockout at UFC 193 in November 2015. It was the first loss of her career, came in devastating fashion, and she has been mostly out of the public eye since. The Olympic judo bronze medalist will challenge for the women's bantamweight title she lost to Holm against Nunes on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.

Harrison, who is considering her own MMA transition, trained in judo with Rousey for years in the Boston area under coach Jimmy Pedro. In 2012, Harrison became the first-ever U.S. woman to win Olympic gold in the sport. She won again this past summer in Rio.

While Rousey has become a household name in MMA following a great judo career, Harrison is still not quite sure if she'll follow in her footsteps. Rousey, Harrison said, has a much more outgoing, in-your-face personality, which is ideal for prizefighting.

"Ronda was made for MMA," Harrison said. "If she wasn't the person that she is, if she didn't step up and say the things that she said and do the things that she did and have the success that she had, then women's MMA would not be where it is today. I am in no way shape or form putting her down for that. It's just not who I am. We're very different people. I'm not trying to be the next Ronda Rousey. I'm trying to be Kayla Harrison."

Harrison said the two remain friendly. Harrison even asked Rousey for some advice about weight-cutting, she said. Harrison would most likely fight at 145 pounds if she chooses to compete in MMA, while Rousey is a 135-pounder.

Asked what she thinks of where Rousey is now, Harrison said she finds it kind of funny after all the years she and Rousey trained so hard together, making little to no money and living in a house with a bunch of male judo athletes in Massachusetts. Back then, Harrison said she would not have believed Rousey would do what she has done in MMA.

"I probably would have laughed and she would have, too," Harrison said.

Harrison said she's proud of her friend. Rousey has made millions in MMA, convinced the UFC to bring in women's divisions and successfully crossed over to Hollywood films. Not too bad for a hard-working former Olympian like Harrison.

"She's set for life," Harrison said. "She can honestly do whatever she wants. She can impact the world in a big way. That's very powerful and that's something that she should be proud of. Maybe one day I'll have that same honor."