Kayla Harrison defeated Audrey Tcheumeo of France via armbar to defend her Olympic gold medal in the women's 78kg judo competition earlier this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Harrison is a former Judo training partner of former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, China.
The connection to one of the sport’s most iconic superstars, therefore, makes it impossible for Harrison to avoid questions about a possible future in MMA once she decides to tie a ribbon around her international Judo career.
And it doesn’t seem like she’s quite ready to make the leap just yet.
"After a match you shake a person’s hand and you give them a hug — you bow to them to show respect," she explained at a recent press conference. "In MMA, it’s not like that. And I don’t know if I’m cut out for a world where you get fights based on how pretty you are and how much you talk and not necessarily how much you are worth in the ring. For me, right now, I’m just going to focus on being two-time Olympic champion, enjoy the moment — live in the moment — and, never say never, but right now the answer is "no" to MMA."
Perhaps she has watched a few too many Rousey fights and not many others, because — more often than not — sportsmanship is alive and well inside the Octagon after the conclusion of each fight. Rousey, on the other hand, has a history of ensuring her opponents "earn" a post-fight handshake.
Nonetheless, in a recent interview with Yahoo.com, Harrison pointed out that she and Rousey are very different people. And if the roles were reversed, Harrison probably could not have reached the same heights inside and outside the Octagon quite like "Rowdy."
"I think Ronda was in the right place at the right time and she was the perfect person to take women's MMA to the level that she’s taken it," she said. "If it had been me, it wouldn’t have been as successful, because I’m not Ronda. If I do MMA, then I’ll have a Ronda complex again and I’ll have to do everything bigger and better, but for now, I’m happy just being Kayla."
Regardless of what Harrison decides to do next, it’s clear that all eyes will be watching, including Rousey: