PFL MMA star, Kayla Harrison enters the second season as one of the favorites in her weight class, which doesn’t bother her at all.
The Professional Fighters League (PFL) kicks off their second season on May 9 on their new exclusive home oN ESPN. The first event of the season features welterweights and their newest weight class, women’s lightweight. The field of competitors in the new weight class that will be battling for receiving a one million dollar check on New Year’s Eve features a multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, a former Strikeforce and Invicta FC title holder and even an Ultimate Fighter veteran. Despite the impressive credentials of the field, the fighter that many believe stands ahead of the pack is the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, Kayla Harrison. It is a pressure that isn’t new for her.
“In the 2012 Olympics, I wasn’t the favorite and I did it anyways,” Harrison told FanSided. “In 2016, I had all the pressure and everyone was watching. I was ranked number one for four years straight. Nobody thought I could handle that pressure and I did it again. So I’m not worried about pressure. I strive under the bright lights.”
Harrison announced in October 2016 that she had signed with the PFL (then called the World Series of Fighting) as a commentator and brand ambassador with the hopes of one day competing in the organization. After honing her skills while training with the prestigious American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, Harrison made her professional debut against Brittney Elkin during the second event of the inaugural PFL season. The Ohio native made quick work of Elkin, winning by first-round submission, and showed the world the skills she possessed. She stayed busy during the season, fighting two more times and earning two more stoppage victories.
The organization announced they would be adding the women’s lightweight division in the second season and that Harrison and seven other women would battle for the chance of being crowned the season two champion. The multi-time Olympic champion believes her experience in Judo would fair well for her during the grueling season.
“It feels more like Judo,” Harrison stated. “I had my entire judo career at tournaments back to back… Sometimes up to 15 in a year and that’s five matches a tournament. It gives you a lot of mat time. That quick pace tournaments vibe is more suited to my style. The biggest thing is staying healthy, fighting smart, and becoming a millionaire.”
Harrison will face off with undefeated Russian sambo standout, Svetlana Khautova in her first matchup of the season. The American has seen all of Khautova’s matches and isn’t concerned about her opponent’s game at all.
“I think Sambo is a weak version of Judo,” Harrison said. “It’s not a good matchup for her. If she wants to grapple with me, come grapple. I’m not trying to be disrespectful but all I see from her is grappling and I am the best grappler on the planet.”
While Harrison pointed out that every fighter in the weight class has a winning record, she views Sarah Kaufman as her stiffest competition.
“The match everyone wants to see is Sarah Kaufman and me,” Harrison said. “She is a veteran of the sport, former Strikeforce champion. She’s 20-4, current Invicta champion. That’s the fight everyone wants to see. People want to see me get tested. That would be the fight for sure.”
Though the judo black belt feels confident, she admits that she does get nervous for her fights and believes that its a good thing.
“If you are not a little nervous, if you are not scared, then you don’t want it enough. I want it so bad. My foundation has always been Fearless. It’s not that I don’t have any fear. It’s just that I fight the fear.”
Harrison’s nonprofit Foundation “Fearless” educates the public about the ongoing issue of sexual abuse while also helping victims receive help. Harrison is a public speaker for the foundation and has been an outspoken opponent against sexual abuser after revealing that she was sexually abused by one of her Judo coaches as a youth. Harrison told FanSided that she wants to use some of her money to help her foundation grow.