Kayla Harrison could be considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in combat sports right now, but she’s not a household name just yet.
That’s why the two-time Olympic champion didn’t really take offense to recent comments from Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg after she compared Harrison to Ronda Rousey, who used her name to gain notoriety when she was first starting to get attention from her fight career.
Harrison fully admits that in order to be considered the best in the world, she has to go through legends like Cyborg, who’s already been established as arguably one of the greatest women’s fighters of all time.
“She’s right,” Harrison said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I do want to fight her and I do need to fight her. I’m the young, hungry up and coming killer. She’s a trailblazer. She absolutely is. The only problem is I’m on that trail now. I’m on her heels and I’m coming for her.
“Maybe she doesn’t need to fight me, or maybe she doesn’t want to fight me and that’s why she’s saying that. That’s fine, too, but I’m going to pursue it with everything that I have. Because I want to be the best. I want to be the greatest. That’s it.”
Harrison recently attended the Bellator 271 card in Florida and sat just a few feet away from the cage when Cyborg laid waste to opponent Sinead Kavanagh by knockout in 92 seconds. It was Cyborg’s fifth straight win overall, and the champ is 10-1 record overall in her past 11 fights with the only setback coming to reigning UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes.
It’s because Cyborg has racked up such an impressive resume that Harrison is ultra-interested in making that fantasy fight a reality, and now that she’s a free agent, it’s entirely possible that a showdown with the Brazilian could happen sooner rather than later.
“Everyone knows I would love to fight Cyborg,” Harrison said. “It’s not a secret. I think that she would be a great test for me.”
Bellator President Scott Coker has already said that he’s interested in bringing Harrison to the promotion. She’s also hinted at interest in possibly joining the UFC roster as well.
One organization that hasn’t been mentioned all that much lately is the PFL, which is where Harrison has called home ever since she started her fighting career.
She’s currently 11-0 in her career with 10 of those wins coming in the PFL — her lone appearance outside the promotion happened in Invicta FC during a tumultuous 2020 due to the global pandemic — and Harrison has also cashed a pair of $1 million paydays as a two-time champion.
Just because all the chatter lately has been about the UFC or Bellator, Harrison isn’t closing the door on the PFL even as she tests the free agency waters right now.
“I’m not unhappy at PFL,” Harrison said. “I believe in the format. I believe in the system. I believe that is the future of MMA, the way that things go there. By no means is PFL not on the table so everyone is clear.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the PFL. I’ve been very happy there. I know that they tried to get a deal done before the finals. It just didn’t pan out contractually the way some things were written, [my manager] Ali [Abdelaziz] wasn’t pleased about. But I mean, I have no gripes with the PFL. I just have to listen to my coaches. Where they think I should go, is where I’m going to go.”
That last part is key because Harrison insists that she’s going to abide by whatever advice she’s offered by the people closest to her when it comes to the next contract she signs.
Harrison is proud of the team that’s been built around her from a manager who’s been by her side since before she threw her first punch in MMA to a group of coaches that have nothing but her absolute best interests in mind.
“Everyone wants to know what the answer is, where I’m going — PFL, Bellator, or UFC, etc. — and I don’t have an answer,” Harrison said. “I’m staying out of it. I’m going to trust my coaches. I’m going to trust Mike Brown and Steve Mocco and Anderson [Franca] and [American Top Team owner] Dan [Lambert] is an advisor of mine and Richie [Guerrero] is an advisor of mine and my coaches ‘Big’ Jim [Pedro] and Jimmy [Pedro] are advisors and Ali is out there doing the work, talking to people, setting up all of these meetings and things and this and that.
“My job now is just to trust them. If they say, ‘Kayla, you should go here,’ that’s what I’m going to do.”