For anyone questioning Kayla Harrison’s desire to face the best competition possible, you have to look no further than the conclusion of her recent contract negotiations.
After hitting free agency following her second consecutive PFL championship, the two-time Olympic gold medalist was eyeing a showdown with Cris Cyborg under the Bellator MMA banner. Once an official offer was made by the Paramount owned promotion, PFL matched that contract and Harrison ultimately re-signed with the only promotion she’s ever called home but it had nothing to do with her avoiding tougher opposition.
“I think in a lot of people’s eyes they think that I ran or that I took the money or I’m just all talk,” Harrison told The Fighter vs. The Writer. “These people really don’t understand contract negotiations. I will say I had an opportunity to go fight and I accepted it. PFL matched that offer so I was going to go fight — I wasn’t going to do a tune up, I wasn’t going to dip my toes in the water. I was going to go fight. Actually, April 22, and PFL matched the offer and they have the right to do that and they’re taking great care of me and I’m happy with it.
“But I’m not running from anybody. I’m not hiding from anybody. I’m not afraid of anybody. I do want to be the greatest of all time. Good things take time, great things take even longer and I’m patient. I’m going to be patient and I’m going to keep doing what I do and I’m just going to be so good that they can’t ignore me.”
The April date that Harrison mentioned coincides with Cyborg’s recent rematch against Arlene Blencowe, which seems to confirm Bellator’s plans to move quickly on booking a fight between two of the top pound-for-pound women’s fighters in the world.
While the fight obviously didn’t come to fruition after PFL matched the offer to bring Harrison back under a new contract, she was definitely pursuing the matchup with Cyborg as she seeks to eventually stake her claim as the greatest of all-time.
Regardless of how it all unfolded, Harrison has still faced criticism for a situation that was out of her control just because there was a desire to see her compete in Bellator or the UFC. In fact, UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Pena was one of the loudest voices taking aim at Harrison after she signed her deal to return to the PFL.
“Kayla’s just running her mouth because she knows nothing’s ever going happen of it, you know?” Pena told The MMA Hour in early April. “She just signed her life away to PFL. So best of luck with that. I hope it’s good. Make your career off of beating tomato cans. That’s great.”
In response, Harrison actually took aim at the media pushing this particular narrative because she promises the day will come when Pena has to pay for everything that’s been said.
“Listen, you and the media need to be careful,” Harrison said. “You’re going to get somebody hurt and it’s going to be on your hands, not mine. Because you’re going to get a girl hurt. You’re going to get her really, seriously hurt and it’s not going to be on my conscience because you guys did this.
“You guys gave her this platform and you allowed her to think that she could stand in a cage with me and beat me and you gave her this delusion. I mean it. You guys are to blame. If I ever get the pleasure of fighting her, whatever happens, I want all of you guys to go and look in the mirror and know that you did that. Cause you are stirring it and I am very frustrated that I can’t just beat her ass.”
Just because Harrison is focused on her future with the PFL right now doesn’t mean that she won’t ever get the opportunity to go after different fights and it appears Pena would be near the top of her hit list.
“I think that in my opinion, she doesn’t respect me and I think I need to go earn her respect and that’s by fighting her,” Harrison said. “I think that will do it.”
As far as the fight against Cyborg goes, Harrison knows that the reigning Bellator champion is nearing the end of her current contract and that means she can exercise her rights in free agency as well.
Harrison understands the expectation that she was supposed to leave the PFL to go after more established fighters like Cyborg but in her estimation, it doesn’t matter where the fight happens at so long as it happens.
Maybe that means Cyborg comes to the PFL or perhaps the PFL and Bellator work together on a co-promotion, which is a scenario that’s been mentioned numerous times as well.
“I think because in the fan’s eyes and in a lot of people’s eyes, I’m still the newcomer, which is true, compared to an Amanda [Nunes], compared to a Cyborg,” Harrison explained. “I’m still the newcomer and I think in their eyes, Bellator’s been around for a lot longer. The UFC’s obviously the powerhouse of the MMA world right now. So I think in their eyes it’s like for it to be legitimate it has to be where we’re used to seeing it be legitimate.
“I think that’s what’s exciting about PFL. They’re not afraid to try new things. They’re not afraid to break the mold. I’ve been assured by the top dogs of the top dogs that they’re going to do everything in their power to make big fights happen for me. It’s hard for me to think about that right now because I have a fight next week and I have the season and I don’t overlook anyone and I have to be prepared to go in here and have four hard wars this year but I am very confident the PFL is going to show out and is going to try and make a splash with making these big fights.”
Fights against Cyborg or even Pena may still take place in the future but for now Harrison is solely focused on her upcoming season in the PFL, which kicks off on Friday where she serves as the main event against Marina Mokhnatkina.
This fight will also kick off her lucrative new deal with PFL where Harrison will reportedly become one of the highest paid fighters in the sport and that fact can’t be ignored when anybody complains about the decisions made in her free agency.
Harrison is proud of her position in the PFL and she’s excited about a very busy year ahead of her.
“I’m not allowed to get into super details about the contract but I will say that I make more money than I ever dreamed I would make,” Harrison said. “There’s security. There’s a lot of guarantees in the contract and it’s an amazing contract.
“I would say I’m happy but I’m not satisfied. There’s a difference. I’m at peace with everything that’s happening but I’m not where I want to be. The hunger is still there. The drive is still there. The determination, the dedication, it’s all still there. I’m not satisfied by any means. I’m still that hungry kid who freaking didn’t have an Olympic gold medal, didn’t have five dollars. That part of me is still not satisfied but I am very happy.”