As Kayla Harrison continues to explore her options through free agency, one of the biggest questions surrounding her future is whether or not she’d actually want to go to the UFC.
While there’s no doubt that the UFC is the biggest mixed martial arts promotion, the organization hasn’t been all that invested in truly growing the women’s featherweight division and that’s exactly where Harrison would need to compete if she landed there.
Just recently, UFC president Dana White was non-committal to the future of the division while adding that his decision will likely rely on reigning 145-pound champion Amanda Nunes’ interest in continuing to compete at featherweight.
For her part, Harrison doesn’t buy that White would actually dump the entire weight class just because Nunes decided she was going to stay at bantamweight moving forward.
“I don’t [think he’d get rid of featherweight],” Harrison said when speaking to MMA Fighting.
Because the UFC has barely added any depth at 145 pounds outside of a few athletes, many believe that White is serious when he says that featherweight really does hinge on Nunes alone but Harrison has heard similar statements in the past.
Case in point — White once famously said that he would never have women compete in the UFC and then a few years later he couldn’t praise former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey enough after she became a dominant force in the promotion as well as one of the biggest stars in the sport.
Lately, White has seemingly doubled down on doubting that Harrison is ready for UFC level competition while actually suggesting that she might be better off sticking around the PFL rather than testing her free agency.
None of that bothers Harrison, who knows talk is just talk and if she ultimately decides to call the UFC her home in the future, she’s more than happy to prove White wrong — and she’s confident he would quickly become her biggest supporter.
“Dana has said a lot of things before,” Harrison said. “It’s my job. If I want to fight in the UFC someday, if I want to fight at featherweight for the UFC some day, then it’s my job to prove to him that I’m worth the investment and I’m worth the risk.
“All I can do is to continue to go out there and be so dominant and continue be so good that you can’t ignore me. I know that I’ll do that. He says a lot of stuff and I know that I’m going to make him eat his words and he’ll smile when he does it and it will be great. I’m not worried about it. That time is coming.”
White has notoriously downplayed some talent outside the UFC ranks but then touted those same fighters after inking them to an exclusive contract.
That’s a huge part of the reason Harrison hasn’t lashed out or gone crazy when hearing some of the things that White has said about her because it’s all part of the sport.
“He’s great at his job,” Harrison said about White. “He freaking started the sport basically. So it’s like who am I to tell him how to do what he does best? I’m not going to sit here and say ‘oh he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he’s this and he’s that, and he has no idea and I’m different.’ I’m just going to show him.
“Then he’ll see and then he’ll do what he does and it will be great. I’m not worried about it. I’m really not.”
For all the talk about the UFC, Harrison still hasn’t decided if she’ll even end up with White as her promoter because she’s still fielding offers from numerous potential suitors.
Bellator President Scott Coker has already stated that he’s very interested in bringing Harrison to the Viacom-owned promotion and it’s no secret that the PFL would love to have the two-time Olympic gold medalist stay right where she’s spent her entire career thus far.
Harrison isn’t willing to show her cards just yet but she definitely has an idea in mind about where she’ll be fighting when she returns to action in 2022.
“No decision [yet],” Harrison said. “This is kind of the time, too, where I kind of have to put my faith and my trust in my team. I did the work. I showed up. I won in dominant fashion all year. I talked a lot of sh*t. I got everyone paying attention. I went out and won another title.
“Now I have to trust the people I surrounded myself with. I have to trust [my manager] Ali [Abdelaziz], I have to trust my coaches, because I know what I want to do, I know where I want to go but it really comes down to what they think is best for me and me having the patience or the wisdom to listen to them and do what they think is best. I feel like I’m ready. I feel like I’m ready to fight anyone in the world, so whatever that means. Not that I have no fear, but I have confidence to spite the fear.”