Kayla Harrison’s next fight will act as her first career rebound attempt.
Professional Fighters League (PFL) capped off its 2022 campaign this past weekend (Nov. 25, 2022) with an annual batch of $1 million title fights. At the end of the night, a new Lightweight queen was crowned as Harrison attempted to secure her third straight place atop the mountain.
Unfortunately for Harrison, Larissa Pacheco had other plans, scoring the upset win via unanimous decision in their trilogy encounter (watch highlights).
“It was just not a great night for me,” Harrison told The MMA Hour. “I take pride in normally, I normally shine under the bright lights. I’m usually laser-focused and I have super clarity, and that night I really just didn’t. Normally I don’t hear the crowd, I don’t hear anything, and it was almost like I was watching me fight. It was a s***** experience for me, I’m not going to lie. I did not fight my best.”
The back-and-forth battle saw all three judges score the bout 48-47 in favor of Brazil’s Pacheco. Heading into the fifth and final round, the pair were tied up having won two rounds a piece. In 16 fights, this is Harrison’s first loss in mixed martial arts (MMA) after two prior unanimous decisions over Pacheco.
“She was physically much different...” Harrison said. “Obviously, it’s been three years since we fought, and she was strong then. I think that’s also why I lost the fifth: I just didn’t have anything left in the tank. And that’s a hard pill to swallow...
“I’m usually the person that digs deep and finds a way, and I don’t know that I’ve ever not been able to find that next gear or find a way,” she concluded. “That fifth round is what I lost, and that’s hard. That’s a hard pill to swallow that I didn’t have what it took that night.”
Harrison’s next moves in 2023 will be intriguing, to say the least. 2022 was the Olympian’s final in the seasonal tournament format, meaning she’ll be exclusive to showcase pay-per-view (PPV) fights as she finishes her current contract with the promotion.
A big goal for all involved was Harrison versus Bellator Featherweight champion, Cris “Cyborg” Justino. That option is still on the table according to PFL, however, a fourth fight between Harrison and Pacheco seems to be too good to pass up on ... in theory.
“I would very much enjoy another fight with her,” Harrison said of Pacheco. “I not going to say ‘enjoy it’ but I don’t want to not fight her... But unfortunately, I might have to earn it. She had to wait three years to fight me again. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I understand I have to work my way back and be prepared.”