Larissa Pacheco thinks she has the upper hand against Kayla Harrison (Video)

Larissa Pacheco (photo by Amy Kaplan/FanSided)
Larissa Pacheco (photo by Amy Kaplan/FanSided) /

Set to battle the face of the PFL, Kayla Harrison, for a third time (and their second fight for a PFL championship), Larissa Pacheco feels their familiarity with one another plays more into her favor

Larissa Pacheco will be in the biggest fight of her life come Nov. 25.

She’ll be taking on Kayla Harrison — the face of the Professional Fighters League, the two-time defending PFL women’s lightweight champion, a foe she faced twice before and lost to both times. And not only will the fight be for a PFL championship again, but it will also be the main event of the PFL’s first-ever pay-per-view card.

While she’s going into the bout an underdog, Pacheco is determined to leave everything in the cage in an effort to score the victory on her biggest stage thus far. In fact, just being at this stage in her makes her reflect on just how far she has come.

“I started fighting for the love of the sport,” Pacheco said, through a translator, at a media day event for the 2022 PFL finals. “I fought for free; I fought just to build a record and to put myself in a position to develop. I fought for virtually nothing. So to come from a place of fighting for virtually nothing, to fighting for a million dollars, it’s everything.

“A million dollars – that kind of money will make a difference in anyone’s life. It’s a sizable amount of money. So just to be able to fight and look at figures like that, and being able to know whose life I’d be able to improve, and what I’d be able to do for my career, means everything to me.”

But to win the big prize, she’ll have to go through Harrison — a formidable task for anyone, let alone someone who has already lost to her twice previously. In fact, those two losses to the former two-time judo Olympic gold medalist are the only times Pacheco has tasted defeat in the PFL cage.

Both of those defeats came during the 2019 season, the first PFL season that featured the women’s lightweight division. Both times, Harrison scored a one-sided unanimous decision.

Such conditions may dictate an expectation that the fight plays out the same way, but not to Pacheco. In fact, she feels how those first two fights went does more to tip the battle in her favor than Harrison’s.

“I can speak assertively that I know how her game works,” Pacheco said. “She beat me twice doing it; I find it hard to believe that she changed her game plan for this third fight. So, I feel like this is a card I have up my sleeve, just knowing what to expect and being able to work around that.”

Larissa Pacheco feels her experiences with Kayla Harrison have her prepared of what to expect in their trilogy bout, will help net her PFL championship

Additionally, Harrison has been gaining attention for comments she has made in her post-fight promos over the course of this season, referring to herself as the queen of women’s MMA and calling out the likes of UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes and Bellator champion Cristiane Justino (Cris Cyborg).

At the end of last season, in fact, Harrison flirted with the UFC in free agency before ultimately returning to the PFL. And this year featured talks about a potential inter-promotional superfight between Harrison and Justino.

While these may say something about Harrison’s status in the PFL and MMA world, Pacheco believes this, too, will help her in the upcoming trilogy clash, feeling these are distractions for Harrison. Additionally, she feels Harrison needs to do more to evolve as an athlete when compared to herself.

“I don’t think it works in her advantage,” Pacheco said. “I personally do feel like she has more to show. And if she wants to be that good and that great, there’s more that she can do. Look at me. I came from jiu-jitsu. That was my safe space. But look at my last five fights. I’ve been knocking people out. I’ve been exposing myself. I’ve been trying different things. I feel like this is what people expect from Kayla and this is the pressure that’s put on her — to go out there and show other sides of your game and not just what people have seen before.”

Regardless of how the final bout for her season plays out, Pacheco can certainly say her 2022 has been more memorable in a positive manner than last year’s season. While last season started her current five-fight first-round finish streak, her 2021 ended in extreme disappointment when she was pulled from that year’s postseason after missing weight for her semifinal bout.

“Last season was a big bucket of ice-cold water,” she said. “I certainly not planning on having it and that way. After that, I really isolated myself for a while and it was a period of deep reflection and just understanding myself. It was tough, but it was needed. I needed to go through that to understand that I was trying to do a lot of different things.

“I was trying to help a lot of people, and in order for this season to happen the way it did and the way it’s going, I needed to be a little bit more selfish. I needed to focus on myself. I needed to just seize the moment in order to then be able to help others and to go back to doing what I’ve been trying to do for a while. I needed this step back in order to take a couple of steps forward.”

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The 2022 PFL Finals take place on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, live from the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Follow along with FanSided MMA who is on site for all your news and highlights.