Much like she did in her first season with Professional Fighters League (PFL), lightweight phenom Kayla Harrison, who recently became a major player at 145 pounds, ran through the competition in 2019, capturing four straight wins and a $1 million prize.
Not bad for an athlete just two years into her mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
But history buffs may have told a different story had PFL President Ray Sefo completed his quest to sign former UFC champion Cristiane Justino, who landed in Harrison’s crosshairs after entering free agency back in summer 2019.
“Cyborg” instead opted to reunite with Scott Coker in Bellator MMA.
“I was disappointed because obviously she’s one of the best,” Harrison told MMAmania.com. “I wanna test myself, I wanna challenge myself. I want to prove I’m the best, not just to myself but to everyone. But I wasn't surprised, I knew she was gonna sign with Bellator because I knew that it was a place where she would be more comfortable. Now she’s saying she wants to fight me but she had an opportunity to fight me last year. She does a lot of talking but not a lot of signing on the dotted line.”
Justino (23-2, 1 NC) quickly captured two straight wins for Bellator MMA and now rules the championship roost at 145 pounds. With PFL granting Harrison the opportunity to compete elsewhere during the off season, the opportunity to face “Cyborg” may still be on the table for late 2021, or perhaps early 2022.
“I have a lot of respect for Cyborg, I feel like she’s had an uphill battle her whole career,” Harrison continued. “She’s another pioneer of the sport and she was basically so good that UFC could no longer ignore her. I respect that, but I’m not afraid of anybody. I don’t have any ill will toward anyone. I just want to fight. I just want to be the best.”
Unfortunately for Harrison — and combat sports fans — PFL was forced to postpone its 2020 season in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The delay of game allowed the two-time Olympic gold medalist to jump over to Invicta FC, where she summarily smashed Courtney King and improved her record to 8-0.
While getting herself one step closer to proving she’s among the best fighters in the world.
“Everyone says, ‘Oh she hasn’t fought tough competition,’ this and that,” Harrison said. “People think I’m another Ronda (Rousey), a one-trick pony. I guess there is still a little hype left around me but it’s not hype if it’s real. There’s no hype here, it’s real. I’m training to be the best in the world, I’m coming for every single one of them and I’m not gonna stop until I’m the best.”
Harrison is expected to make her PFL return in April.