As much as some fighters care about the pound-for-pound rankings, PFL superstar Kayla Harrison isn’t among them.
There’s been a debate lately about where the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo belongs amongst the best women’s fighters in mixed martial arts as she sits with a perfect 9-0 record in her career with only two of those fights making it to a decision.
As she seeks a 10th consecutive win at PFL 6 on Friday night against UFC veteran Cindy Dandois in the main event, Harrison couldn’t care less about where she sits in those rankings because the reality is none of that matters right now.
“No, I don’t care,” Harrison told MMA Fighting when asked about the rankings. “To be honest with you, no, I don’t care. I care about one thing and that’s being the best in the world so being on someone’s list or being on this or being on that, it doesn’t mean anything. What is it? It’s someone’s opinion so I don’t give a sh*t.”
In the UFC, numerous fighters have called for the top spot in the pound-for-pound rankings over the past few years but despite some seriously impressive resumes, there’s no real metric to measure in order to quantify who should be No. 1.
Perhaps the most universally recognized “pound-for-pound” great in MMA right now is Harrison’s teammate Amanda Nunes and that’s mostly because she’s vanquished every single fighter to ever hold a title at either bantamweight or featherweight in UFC history. It’s awfully hard to deny her the top spot with those kinds of credentials.
In Harrison’s mind, when she can start making those same kinds of claims when it comes to her career accomplishments, then she’ll start banging the drum about her place in the rankings.
“It’s always a big drama show as Khabib [Nurmagomedov] would say,” Harrison stated. “I understand that’s part of the sport. I understand it’s an aspect to be entertaining and to talk this and do whatever but I’ve got a one track mind. Pound-for-pound rankings are cool or whatever but I don’t care about that.
“Do you know they say about me in judo? They say I’m the greatest American judo player of all time. Do you know why they say it? Because it’s irrefutable. You cannot argue with it. It’s facts. When I get to that point [in MMA] then I’ll say ‘I better be the No. 1 on the pound-for-pound list’ because that’s facts. I’m not there yet. I know that I’m not there yet. So who wants to be No. 8 on the pound-for-pound [rankings]? Nobody cares. When I’m No. 1, then I’ll start throwing a hissy fit but until then it’s all good.”
Of course to start making those arguments, Harrison understands that her level of competition has to get higher, which is why she was hoping to see some new talent opposing her in the current PFL season.
After dispatching Mariana Morais back in May, Harrison was hoping that the PFL would give her an opponent coming off a win but instead she drew Dandois, who suffered a unanimous decision loss to Kaitlin Young in her debut appearance in the PFL.
Add to that, Harrison has seen the trials and tribulations that Dandois and her family have gone through over the past year due to the global pandemic and she can’t deny that takes an emotional toll on a person.
“She was basically the only one I didn’t want to fight just cause I read some stuff and I listened to an interview and I just didn’t want to fight her,” Harrison said. “Not because of anything other than personal reasons and I didn’t want to fight someone who was coming off a loss. I wanted to continue building my record against people who are winning. But I don’t ever really get what I want anymore these days so I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised by the matchup.
“This is business, I’m not here to make friends. It sucks for Cindy but we’re going go out there and hopefully put on a hell of a show and maybe we’ll get to see a lot of judo this fight.”
The one thing Harrison won’t do is disrespect Dandois by looking past her or treating this as anything other than the toughest possible opponent she’s ever faced.
The day Harrison discounts the person standing across the cage from her is when she knows defeat could be creeping around the corner and that’s something she never wants to face in her MMA career.
“At the end of the day we both have a job to do and she’s going to try to take me out,” Harrison said about Dandois. “I have to remember that. I have to remember that she’s coming for me and my job is to go out there and make sure that I instill my will and I win the fight in glorious fashion.”
As far as what comes after this fight, Harrison still has at least two more wins before she can claim the $1 million prize awaiting the PFL lightweight champion this season. She already conquered that same goal in 2019 and this would easily put Harrison among the highest-paid athletes in the sport.
Harrison can’t say for certain what the future holds for her beyond this season but she knows in order to accomplish her long term goals, she’s eventually going to have to seek out the kinds of opponents who can push her to become the best in the world.
At the same time with a family to raise, Harrison can’t deny that money will always play some factor in her future choices but she believes given enough time, she will face the best of the best in MMA and get paid very well to do it.
“I’ve made abundantly clear that I want to be the best in the world,” Harrison said. “I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m ready for a step up in competition. Where I go, what I do, is all dependent on that. It’s also dependent on money. I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I’ll fight for free. Of course not. But the goal for me is to make money doing what I love and be the best in the world at it.
“I fully expect that if I continue to do what I’m doing, I continue to do all the right things, if I continue to be dominant, that I’m going to be one of the highest-paid fighters in the world and I’m going to get to fight the best. I’m going to get to do everything that I want. I just have to stick to the game plan. I just have to stay smart. I just have to stay focused and everything else is going to work itself out.”