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Kayla Harrison responds to Julianna Pena: ‘You should be careful, because I don’t play those games’

UFC 269: Paiva v O’Malley Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Two-time PFL champ Kayla Harrison sat octagon-side at UFC 269 and watched Julianna Pena dethrone Amanda Nunes. Then she found herself in the new champ’s crosshairs.

On Wednesday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Harrison responded to a jab from Pena calling her “the lesser of the training partners” with Nunes, her American Top Team colleague.

“I think she should be careful,” Harrison said. “I think she needs to be careful about what she says and who she says it to. I’m not Conor McGregor. I don’t talk sh*t just to talk sh*t. I have a lot of respect for her. I think she’s a good fighter. But this isn’t a joke, and you should be careful, because I don’t play those games.”

Pena told MMA Junkie that a rematch with Nunes is the logical choice for her next step. Nunes ceded the UFC bantamweight title but remains champion in the featherweight division, where Harrison previously has fought.

Asked about Harrison as a potential opponent, Pena took a shot at the PFL as a “B-league” and added “I’m not paying too much attention to what she’s doing down there.”

The free agent Harrison aims to prove she’s the best fighter in the world and would welcome fighting Pena.

“I’m not a B-league fighter,” she said. “I’m going to be the best in the world, and if you think that’s different, then step in the cage with me and find out.”

First, Harrison needs to make the decision that will determine the opposition available to her. She said she has offers from every major MMA promotion and a boxing offer from Triller, which she indicated was very lucrative. Her appearance at UFC 269 renewed speculation of a move to the octagon. The promotion featured her on the broadcast, a move typically for current UFC stars and celebrities.

As the top-ranked free agent in MMA, Harrison was considered a prime opponent for Nunes, who’d dominated the field at bantamweight and featherweight for six years. Nunes’ loss appeared to damage the value of that matchup, but Harrison said that’s not her understanding.

Whether she faces off with Pena, Nunes or any other top performer, it will be because the offer presented is the best for her future.

“Fighting Amanda, it was something I wanted...it’s such a weird thing,” she said. “Like, I don’t want to fight her, but I want to fight her. I’m in a position where I want to be the best – she’s the best. It’s not personal, it’s just business. But I also love Amanda, and I think she’s a great person, think she’s a great mom, a great person, a great champion, I have nothing but good things to say about her, so is it like am I going to come out and say, ‘I want to fight Amanda?’

“My goal of being the best includes people like Amanda, includes people like Cyborg, includes the top people in the world. But I do believe that, given enough time and given enough space to run free, I can accomplish it with or without them. I think it’s ideal for the best fighters to fight against each other in the prime of their career. That’s what everyone wants to see, so I’m here for it.

“But me going to the UFC, or not going to the UFC, or staying in PFL, or going to Bellator, those things are personal. Those things are my decision and on my career, and it has nothing to do with Amanda, it has nothing to do with Cyborg. It’s about what I think is going to be best for me, my family, and my legacy. What I want to achieve in this sport and in this world, so I don’t think her losing affects that. I think I’m that going to shine no matter where I go or what I do. I believe in myself that much.”