Kayla Harrison wants to go down as the greatest fighter in the history of MMA. But the only way the two-time Olympic gold medalist is going to achieve that lofty goal is by taking on the best possible opposition.
Her pursuit of that acclaimed title is one of the reasons why she lobbied hard for Professional Fighters League to go after former UFC champion Cris Cyborg when she became a free agent earlier this year.
Harrison has targeted Cyborg as a fighter she’s wanted to face ever since making her transition from judo to mixed martial arts. But as much as she wanted the multi-promotion featherweight champ to join the PFL, Cyborg ultimately inked a contract with Bellator MMA. The decision reunited her with her former Strikeforce promoter, Scott Coker.
Now, Cyborg is set to meet Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd in January.
“I’m disappointed for sure, but I’m not surprised,” Harrison said of Cyborg in an interview with MMAFighting. “I think she’s going to go with this formula and format that she’s used to, and she’s kind of at the tail end of her career. I know Bellator’s going to make her a star and take really good care of her. I think she made the right choice for her.
“PFL is a different kind of format. I thought it would have been a really good fit for her, but I’m not her manager, (and) I’m not in her shoes. I don’t know what was said. I know they made her an offer, but apparently Bellator’s was better, or at least it was better suited for her.”
The PFL currently is promoting a format where fighters competed in a “regular season” and “playoff” format that culminates in a championship fight at the end of the year. The winner in each weight class takes home $1 million.
Harrison currently is two wins away from taking him the $1 million prize in the lightweight division. Her next fight takes place on Friday at PFL 7.
Harrison would have loved to see Cyborg join the division next year once the PFL ramps up for a third season. But she’s never going to fault a fighter for doing what’s best for them.
As for her own relationship with the PFL, Harrison says she’s happier than ever with the upstart promotion. But she also knows to make her way up the all time greatest fighter list, she has to face opponents who are going to truly challenge her.
The good news for Harrison is that the PFL already showed a willingness to sign high profile free agents after bringing in former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman, who is currently in the other semifinal bracket of the Season 2 lightweight playoffs.
“The money doesn’t really motivate me,” Harrison said about fighting for the PFL. “It’s the concept. I love that I don’t have to talk s—t, I don’t have to do the dog and pony show. I just get to be me, and I get to fight, and I get to train, and that’s pretty much it.
“I want to be the best, and I have to go where the best are. But I’m really happy at the PFL, and I hope they continue to bring over high level opponents for me to compete against for a very long time.”