Kayla Harrison really, really wants to fight.
Unfortunately, the two-time PFL champion, who suffered her first professional loss in a five-round decision to Larissa Pacheco this past November, has started running out of time if she hopes to compete before the end of the year. As it stands, the PFL is about to kick off the 2023 playoffs in August with only one more card remaining for the finals, which will likely take place in November, and Harrison is still awaiting word on whether or not she may get a spot for that year-end event.
“My timing in MMA is pretty brutal, not going to lie,” Harrison told MMA Fighting. “I’m kind of stuck in this weird limbo, I would argue through no fault of my own. I mean I lost so there’s that but yeah I’m letting [my manager] Ali [Abdelaziz] do what I pay him to do and I pay him quite a bit of money so I let him handle all that. I just train and stay ready.
“Unfortunately, this is a great opportunity for me to learn how to be patient. I’m not an extremely patient person so it’s taught me that. It really has forced me to realize I’m not in control. It’s not up to me. If I could fight, I would fight. If I could fight tomorrow, I would fight tomorrow. But I’m not in control and I have to be patient and just stay ready. I hope it all works out in my favor. I have faith that it will. I’ve just got to keep doing my part.”
It appeared momentarily like Harrison might finally get the chance to clash with Cris Cyborg — a fight she’s been pursuing for several years — when the Brazilian hit free agency in recent months. In the end, Cyborg inked a new deal with Bellator MMA, which for the time being nixed any chance that Harrison would get to face her before 2023 is over.
While there have been rumors swirling that perhaps the PFL might partner with Bellator as the Paramount-owned promotion seeks a buyer, Cyborg remains out of reach for now and Harrison can’t catch a break.
That said, Harrison promises there’s no ill will towards the PFL regarding the situation even as she sits with two fights left on her current deal with the organization.
“There’s absolutely no anger towards the PFL,” Harrison said. “There’s no anger towards the PFL about anything that’s happened. I mean I think I’m a little disheartened and saddened I guess by a little bit of the treatment once I lost. I feel like things have changed. Things didn’t really change for me but it changed for them and I have to accept that. They’re a promotion and their job is to make money.
“There are no friends in this business. It’s business. But there’s no frustration with them. There’s frustration with my situation.”
According to Harrison, she was convinced that the fight with Cyborg would happen this year but then the Bellator featherweight champion opted to stay at her current home rather than sign somewhere else. In the immediate aftermath of that decision, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo made comments about the Cyborg fight that made it sound like she was upset with the PFL over the situation.
“After said person re-signed with Bellator, the next day I was told up until that day that it was going to happen, it was going to happen, it was going to happen and then I found out in the media that it didn’t happen,” Harrison said. “I got interviewed the next day and I said ‘yeah, of course, I still have hope that fight will happen and Bellator has my number’ or something like that and that got really misconstrued where people felt like I was not team PFL and that’s just not the case.
“I’m just a fighter. I’m a fighter first. I want to fight the big fights. I want to fight. But I have nothing but love for the PFL. I’m so proud of everything they’ve accomplished and everything they’re doing. I’m proud to have been a part of it and I can’t make people fight me. I can’t make people believe what I say is what I mean. I’m going to keep being me and keep being authentic and that’s really all I can do.”
Sadly with the Cyborg fight off the table and Pacheco locked up in the 2023 PFL season, Harrison has started to believe that 2023 may come and go without her competing a single time.
“I have come to terms with the reality of I may not fight this year,” Harrison said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow. This isn’t like I’m 18 years old and I’m coming off an ACL injury. I’m 33, I’ve been competing my entire life since I was 12 years old. I’ve been training full time. The one thing you can’t buy in life is time. This is a moment that I’ll never get back and I feel like I’m in the prime of my career but probably about to start the descent.
“You can’t fight father time. He waits for no man. Everyone hits that point where they don’t recover the same. They don’t have the same snap. They don’t have the same explosion. That’s something I can’t control also and it’s a hard pill to swallow but I’m staying patient. I’m staying faithful. I believe that everything happens for a reason and when it’s my time to fight again, I’ll fight again.”
Harrison understands that options are probably limited for potential opposition, which is why she concedes that she’s just stuck in purgatory right now.
She’s still holding out hope that the PFL decides to book her on the year-end card and that’s why Harrison is staying ready just in case, although nothing has been offered at this time.
“It’s a very weird time in MMA and it’s kind of a s***** time to be Kayla Harrison,” Harrison said. “It’s unfortunate. Obviously, I hope that it all works out to my benefit. I don’t know exactly what’s happening. The more I think about it and kind of dive into it, the more anxiety and stress I feel. I’m just like whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. Control the controllable. Stay grounded, stay focused. It’s an interesting time. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It sucks.
“I said this in an interview the other day, did I really need the second gold medal? I should have come to MMA at 22 and just f*** s*** up but it’s all right. It all happens for a reason. It’s fine. Whatever happens, happens and I’m still here. I’m still willing to fight. I’m dedicated to this and I am all in on this. This is what I love to do. This is what I was born to do. Whatever it takes to continue to reach my goals, to strive, to be the best possible version of myself, I’m willing to do.”