It didn’t take long after her upset loss to Larissa Pacheco this past November for Kayla Harrison to scrap every plan she had for the year ahead.
As she competed in a third season for the PFL, the two-time Olympic gold medalist had already decided that she wouldn’t return for another tournament that required her to fight four times over approximately seven months. That kind of schedule was taxing on her mind and body, so Harrison was anxious to pursue individual fights, especially after the PFL announced plans for more pay-per-view cards starting in 2023.
But Harrison also never planned on tasting defeat in her career, so dropping a unanimous decision to Pacheco nearly made her walk back her entire strategy.
“I said pretty much after the fight, ‘I need to fight in the season,’” Harrison told MMA Fighting. “Everything I said was out the window, I was like, ‘F*** it, I’m going back.’ But that’s not the plan for me. I’m grateful that it didn’t happen.
“[The time off has] been good. It’s different. I’ve been fighting my whole life. I’ve been doing two-a-days since I was 12 years old. Taking care of me, getting better in the areas I need to get better at and also spending time with the people I love has been really good for me.”
If Harrison had beaten Pacheco after already holding two previous wins over her, it would have effectively ended any real interest in seeing them fight for a fourth time. But Pacheco’s win seemed to set up the perfect storyline for a fourth encounter while also giving the PFL an easy matchup to market for a future pay-per-view.
Unfortunately, that potential plan fell apart once Pacheco entered the 2023 PFL season at featherweight and noted that she doesn’t expect a rematch with Harrison to happen this year, because she’ll already be committed to four fights if she makes it to the finals again.
That leaves Harrison with a lot of uncertainty and no real answers regarding her future as she continues to sit and wait for another fight.
“Only God knows,” Harrison said about what’s next for her. “Obviously, I wanted to fight in the season because I wanted the rematch, and yeah, I wanted the rematch but that’s not going to happen. That’s not the PFL’s plan for me. They’ve been in talks with [Cris] Cyborg. I don’t know where Cyborg and her team stand. One minute it’s boxing and then it’s back to Bellator, and then it’s PFL possibly, so I’m just trying to stay patient and stay ready.
“I’m still in the gym, I’m training hard, I’m getting better everyday and putting the pieces together. There’s no point in my stressing about it because I can’t control it. So I’ve just got to let that part of it go.”
Ideally, Harrison would still fight at least one time in 2023, but she has no direction right now about what plans may be made regarding her next opponent.
While it’s not the best set of circumstances to face with her career, Harrison has already started to fathom a situation where she doesn’t fight at all in 2023.
“If God wants me to sit for a year, that’s what I’ll have to do,” Harrison said. “I think that hopefully something comes together, because I’ve already sat for one year of my prime and I’d really not like to do that again, but we’ll see.
“I’ll fight anybody, I’ll just put that out there. I’ll fight anybody, so if anybody wants to fight.”
As far as Pacheco goes, Harrison won’t begrudge her former opponent for jumping at the chance to go through another season, especially with the chance to win the $1 million grand prize at the end.
Pacheco stated that she was absolutely open to another fight with Harrison, but she wanted similar compensation as the former two-time PFL champion. Even Harrison understands those demands, so there’s no hard feelings even if they never get to fight again.
“Listen, absolutely, she has to do what’s best for her,” Harrison said. “There’s no animosity from me for that. You’ll never hear me talk s*** about someone putting food on their table, so I’m not a Larissa hater.
“My journey is my journey and hers is hers, and I would like to get that win back, so hopefully we can do it in the future. But I did win two out of three.”