After a drawn out process, Olympic gold medalist and rising mixed martial arts (MMA) star, Kayla Harrison, ended her free agency by re-signing with Professional Fighters League (PFL), where she’s won all 11 of her fights over the past three years.
There were a lot of twists and turns to that journey. It seemed like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was ready to sign her up to fight Amanda Nunes ... until Nunes lost a shocking upset to Juliana Pena, leaving Kayla literally swearing at cageside. Then Bellator offered her a big money contract, perhaps hoping Scott Coker could make more lightning in a bottle after shepherding Ronda Rousey into the mainstream consciousness under the Strikeforce umbrella.
But, PFL went ahead and matched Bellator’s offer. And, according to Harrison’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, the new deal makes her the highest paid female fighter in the history of the sport.
“Kayla is the highest (paid) female fighter ever,” Abdelaziz said in an interview with MMA Junkie. “I know Adesanya say this, Masvidal say this. The highest-paid male fighter in the UFC is Conor McGregor. No. 2 is Kamaru Usman. Everybody else – I guarantee you Kayla Harrison makes more money than these other two guys I just mentioned. I guarantee you.”
“Her and Kamaru, they’re friends and they’re kind of competing right now,” Abdelaziz said. “They’re neck-and-neck. They’re very very close, but listen: she’s the queen of the castle, she’s the number one draw in PFL ... They matched the deal and some [more] on top of it.
“Kayla’s now gonna be in the 2022 [PFL] season, she’s gonna run through everybody like she always does,” Abdelaziz continmued. “It doesn’t matter who she’s gonna fight. I believe she is the best female combat athlete right now – in boxing, in MMA, and she’s the most dominant. She cannot be touched. This woman, nobody even hit her. I believe none of these women out there inside PFL, UFC, Bellator, anybody can touch her.”
It’s a somewhat shocking statement if true: that Kayla Harrison isn’t just the highest paid woman of all time, but the third highest paid fighter in all of MMA. Of course, it helps that MMA pay and UFC pay, in particular, is shrouded in mystery. Even most state athletic commissions throughout the United States have largely stopped providing fight purse information, leaving us largely in the dark when it comes to how much the Usmans, Adesanyas and Masvidals of the sport earn.
But, we do know roughly how much Ronda Rousey made, and it was a heck of a lot. Back in 2015 when “Rowdy” was atop UFC, Forbes pinned her as the eighth-highest paid woman in all of sports with $6.5 million in earnings over a 12-month period.
Can Kayla Harrison really earn that much via PFL?
Well, she’s almost certainly going to run through the 145-pound women’s tournament, earning $1 million there ... again. It wouldn’t be shocking to learn her contract nets her another $1 million+ on top of that. And if she’s got pay-per-view (PPV) points, one big event that captures the public’s attention could indeed push her into the sphere of Rousey money.
It’s certainly not guaranteed money, but what is guaranteed in the world of MMA. As always, we’re just happy to see our athletes getting the opportunity to be paid.