Kayla Harrison’s perfect mixed martial arts (MMA) record was marred on last night (Fri., Nov. 25, 2022) at the 2022 PFL World Championships, losing to Larissa Pacheco via unanimous decision in the promotion’s Lightweight tournament finale (watch highlights here). The 48-47x3 scores moved the Olympic gold medalist to 15-1 and cost her the $1 million tournament prize.
Following the bout, an emotional Harrison turned up at the post-fight press conference to discuss the loss.
“I’m super grateful for the opportunity to do what I love everyday,” she said, fighting back tears. “I didn’t get the result that I wanted tonight. Larissa was the better fighter. I don’t have an excuse, I don’t have a reason. I think ... I believe in my team, I believe in my preparation. I feel like we did everything right in order to prepare for this fight. Just didn’t go my way tonight.”
“I made some tactical errors. A lot to work on. Failure is my fuel. Some days you’re the nail, and some days you’re the hammer. I feel like I’ve been the hammer for a while, and today, I experienced being the nail. This is an opportunity for me to grow as a fighter and as a person.
“I’m very fortunate that this isn’t the first time I’ve lost in life, or in a sport setting,” she added. “I lost many times in judo. It’s a little different in MMA, obviously. It’s the world’s biggest stage. I obviously just lost my title, so that hurts. It’s going to hurt for a while.”
At this point Harrison broke down in tears for a moment. The assembled press gave her some encouraging applause to fill the silence.
“But it’s also kind of silly, right?” she continued. “I’m not curing cancer, I’m not changing the world. What I do is very selfish, and I do it because I love it. And again, I’m really grateful for my team, for everyone who makes sacrifices for me. They’re away from their families during the holidays, they’re in the gym with me every day, putting in the work just as much as I am. I’m grateful for my family, all the sacrifices they made in order for me to be here. For my kids. And I know that I have a really blessed life. So although it hurts, I know that I’ll come back stronger.”
“I’m not ashamed of myself tonight, you know? I’m proud. I went out there, I fought, I lost, but I can hold my head high and carry myself with dignity. And I think that a real champion shows up in the good times and the bad, and I want kids everywhere to know that, listen, I fell down tonight. I fell flat on my face. I lost in front of the whole world. It hurts, and it’s going to hurt for awhile. But it’s also an opportunity for growth, it’s an opportunity for me to become a better fighter, a better person, and that is part of my legacy. Not just the wins, but what I do during the losses as well.”
As for how she felt about the fight itself, she knew she was neck-and-neck with Pacheco going into the fifth round. She credited her opponent’s strength with carrying her across the finish line.
“I feel like I needed to win the fifth round. She was doing more damage than me,” Harrison said. “Even on the ground, some of the shots from the bottom I was like, ‘what the hell just hit me?’ I felt like I really needed to find a way, and I was even thinking that before the fight. ‘Twenty-five hard minutes, I need to find a way.’ And I just didn’t find a way tonight.”
“She was just extremely physical this fight. I feel like it was a different person in there, to be honest. I don’t know. She was much bigger, much stronger than I recalled. Much more patient, obviously. There were a couple times she flurried and blitzed, but she kept her conditioning really well. I mean, she did a great job. She’s a champion.”
While Harrison was graceful in defeat, it was clear the loss bothered her a lot. Asked how this was different from other defeats she’d suffered in her athletic career, Kayla laid out the factors on her mind.
“It’s different in the sense that there’s $1 million on the line, and I feel like I’m the face of the promotion,” she said. “So ... I dropped the ball a little bit. But, losing is losing. For me, it’s like I want to crawl out of my skin. I can’t stand it. So it’s painful.”
For more results and highlights from the 2022 PFL World Championships, click here.