Kayla Harrison vs. Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino feels like it will never happen at this point.
Both fighters have gone through free agency periods that revolved somewhat around the other in the past two years but couldn’t land any deals to compete under the same umbrella. As she’s ascended to the status of two-time Professional Fighters League (PFL) Lightweight champion, Harrison, 32, has always pursued being the best, which entailed future potential showdowns with either Cyborg or Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) dual-titlist, Amanda Nunes.
With the former always being the more realistic of the two options, it once again faded away (for the time being) as Cyborg recently re-signed with Bellator as opposed to joining Harrison’s fighting home of PFL.
“I’ve already mourned it,” Harrison told ESPN of the dream match up. “It’s been so many times where it’s come so close and I’m [talking] both sides, my side and her side, and I was pretty — I was told it was a done deal with PFL and she was gonna sign and here we go, plan on this date. So, I had a lotta hope and I also was like, ‘Mm. It’s MMA. Don’t do that to yourself again, Kayla.’ It is what it is, man. I can’t control it. I can only control me. I can only control how I prepare myself, how I handle myself, and the rest I kind of chalk it up to God. This is his plan, not mine.
“Exactly what I thought was going to happen happened,” she continued. “I just think that PFL and Bellator are rivals and neither one of them want to give this fight to their rival. I think that happened with me and I think that happened with Cris.”
In early 2022, Harrison was ready to make the fight a reality, signing with Bellator to challenge Cyborg for her Bellator Featherweight title in an April 2022 Hawaii showcase. That was until PFL matched the rights of the deal, keeping Harrison put and re-inserting her into the PFL Lightweight tournament.
Harrison is currently on the outside looking in as Lightweight is no more and PFL rolls on with the Featherweight season in 2023. The two-time Olympic gold medalist shared that she was in talks with everyone involved in the most recent Cyborg negotiations — except for Cyborg. Ultimately, Harrison knows that her would-be dance partner turned down millions to stay with Bellator.
Unsurprisingly, Cyborg hasn’t taken kindly to the comments and laid out a new path to the fight.
“Get a win, finish your contract that doesn’t have any exclusive negotiation or right to match, and then give Uncle Scott Coker a call,” Cyborg responded on Twitter. “Until then stop clout chasing.
“The people say I’m scared of Kayla Harrison,” she continued. “Even Kayla said, ‘I’m not surprised.’ Kayla, you lost your last fight. If you want to make this fight, I was supposed to fight the champion. And I saw you look tough, ‘Ah, come into the parking lot, fight me, Cris. Are you scared?’ I went to your event, I saw you, you looked the whole time at the floor. You never looked to my eyes. So, if you’re looking really tough and want to make this fight happen, I hear you’re gonna be free in December. When you are free, call Uncle Scott and he’ll make this fight happen. If you are tough.”
2023 is the year with the most realistic possibility of seeing Harrison depart PFL after competing almost exclusively under the banner since her mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in June 2018. Come November or December, according to her, Harrison will be an unrestricted free agent this time around with no ability from PFL to match offers. Should she not receive the two fights she was expecting on her contract this year, she’ll still get paid regardless. The hope, of course, is still to get some cage time and rebound off her first career loss to Larissa Pacheco in her last fight this past Nov. 2022 (watch highlights).
Until then, Harrison (15-1) wants to put to rest all the banter between herself and Cyborg.
“This is literally all bulls—t, Cris and you know it,” Harrison said in response to Cyborg in their Instagram direct messages. “I haven’t used your name. I don’t talk about you, they ask about you. We both know you just totally played and f—ked the PFL over which fine whatever, you do you, but stop making fake s—t for real. I wish you the best in your life and I’ll be praying for you. Anyone who can spin lies like you do needs Jesus, for sure.
“I’m blocked but just FYI Cris: I’m not chasing clout I’m chasing greatness. Consider it an honor I want to fight you. Or consider it whatever you want I don’t really care but stop spreading lies. It’s unbecoming. A true champ says it like it and owns their s—t.
“Yes I lost and I own it,” she concluded. “I don’t hide behind or make excuses. I don’t play people and play games. Which is why I have zero bridges burned in this game. Good luck in all your future endeavors Cris. I’m done with the games.”