clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kayla Harrison knows GOAT status is possible after cutting to 145 with potential opponents like Amanda Nunes or Cris Cyborg

New, comments
Ryan Loco, PFL

When Kayla Harrison made the decision to move into MMA after claiming two gold medals at the Olympics, she did so with one purpose in mind.

Become the greatest fighter in history.

Considering Harrison had already conquered the judo world while becoming the first and only American to claim gold at the Olympic games, her drive for success was undeniable.

Thus far in her career, the 30-year-old Ohio native has delivered on all her promises while amassing a perfect 8-0 record including six wins by TKO or submission. She earned the $1 million grand prize as part of the PFL’s season in 2019 and she’ll look to claim back-to-back titles when fighting for the promotion in 2021.

Despite all those accolades, Harrison’s biggest criticism has usually come down to the level of her competition while fighting at 155 pounds. As dominant as Harrison’s been, there just aren’t very many established fighters competing at lightweight in the women’s division, which stands as a roadblock to her ultimate goal in the sport.

Just recently, Harrison actually cut down to featherweight for the first time in her career before she demolished Courtney King inside two rounds as part of the Invicta FC 43 card. While Harrison has routinely criticized extreme weight cutting in combat sports, she knows her path toward greatness becomes much easier if she’s fighting at 145 pounds because potential opponents such as two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes or Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg are also competing in that weight class.

“145 [pounds] will definitely be more beneficial to the business of Kayla Harrison than 155,” Harrison said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I wouldn’t say I’m stoked about cutting to 145. I didn’t enjoy it. But I do know that in terms of opportunity, it’s just going to be a better fit for me.

“We’ll see what happens with the PFL. I’m going to finish my contractual duties. Obviously they’re working hard to get more fresh talent in there. I’m super excited about that. But right now, just take it one fight at a time.”

Getting down to 145 pounds was never going to be easy but Harrison had to face all sorts of obstacles in her initial move to featherweight while competing for Invicta FC.

As she was quarantined due to COVID-19 protocols, Harrison was forced to undergo her weight cut alone for the most part, which meant she could only depend on herself for support. In the end, Harrison made weight without issue and that gives her the confidence in any future cuts back down to 145 pounds again.

“I didn’t enjoy it,” Harrison admitted. “I was miserable. Like I said, I didn’t know if I was going to get to fight because of some issues so I’m sitting alone in my room like should I order some pizza? What am I doing this for? What’s the point? It was tough but mentally I know if I can cut weight by myself in that scenario then I can do it anywhere.

“I’m pretty proud of myself. I was a professional. I did it the right way without starving myself, without panicking. It went good. I didn’t enjoy it but it went good.”

With that said, Harrison is now focused on making 2021 much better than the year that just passed where she was only able to compete one time due to the global pandemic.

She will compete at lightweight as part of the PFL season starting in the spring but from there the sky is the limit in terms of her future.

Harrison isn’t calling anybody out by name just yet but now that the featherweight door has been opened, she fully understands the opportunities that will be available to her.

“I’ve been pretty patient,” Harrison said. “I’ve stayed the course despite the crazy year we’ve all had. Everything happens for a reason. I think I’ve been very patient with my career. I haven’t rushed it. I haven’t stepped in after two fights and tried to fight an Amanda Nunes or a Cris Cyborg. I think I’ve developed my skill set. I think I’ve grown tremendously as a fighter and as a person.

“I think all the pieces are falling into place. Right when I’m ready, right when I’m in my prime, I’m going to be able to execute my game plan and go out and go down as one of the greatest. I see it happening. It’s pretty exciting.”

More than anything, Harrison is proud of the work she’s doing to attain that goal without skipping the line or asking for opponents she hasn’t earned yet. That mindset is what she believes will eventually get her those kinds of high profile fights to become the GOAT.

“It hasn’t always been easy and obviously I’ve still got to go out and execute, go out and fight and perform and train hard and put in the work,” Harrison said. “I’m not even really well known yet. I’ve stayed quite. Just gone out and done my work. I’m known in the MMA world but I didn’t blow up like Ronda [Rousey].

“I wasn’t this overnight sensation. I didn’t get pushed too hard, too fast. I didn’t fail to develop certain areas of my game. I didn’t lose who I am. I didn’t decide I’m just going to be a striker. I think I’ve done everything right and when you do everything right, good things happen to those people. I just think that it’s only a matter of time.”