There’s a popular saying in MMA that goes something like this: “All Kayla Harrison does is smash fools and cash checks.”
Okay, so that saying is actually something heard around the McCarson household when Harrison fights, and it’s said by me. But it’s such an accurate depiction of her pro-fighting life that it’s sure to be catching on real soon.
In response, Harrison replied, “Amen. So far, it’s been pretty accurate.”
Harrison is 10-0 in MMA. She’s already become a world champion, and she seems dead set on steamrolling her way to another gold belt this year for the Professional Fighters League (PFL) in what’s just her fourth year overall as a professional prizefighter.
The 31-year-old chatted with Heavy about all that and more in an exclusive interview. You can watch that chat via YouTube below.
Follow the Heavy on UFC Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Tragedy in Miami
Harrison destroyed her last opponent Cindy Dandois at PFL 6, and that gave her the No. 2 seed in the upcoming 2021 PFL playoffs.
But after her first-round submission victory at PFL 6, Harrison used part of her time at the post-fight press conference to lobby for donations for her adopted hometown of Miami.
The day before her fight is when the devastating news broke that Champlain Towers South had collapsed, leaving over 100 people missing and presumed buried in the rubble.
As of Tuesday, the death toll was 90 and rising, with 31 people still listed as missing.
“When something like that happens, your heart just stops. You take a moment and realize how precious life is. For me, I kind of had flashbacks, I know it’s kind of not the same, but I had flashbacks to the Boston bombing,” Harrison said.
No two tragedies are the same, but Harrison knows the tie that binds most are the feelings of heartbrokenness, helplessness, and despair.
The bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013 left three dead and hundreds more injured.
Harrison was living in the area at the time, and she remembers well the shock and devastation that smacked that part of the country without a moment’s notice.
So Harrison knew when she heard about the Miami tragedy exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to help raise money for those affected.
“What is the point of having a platform if you don’t use it to do something?” Harrison said.
Harrison is making a donation via her charity organization, and she’s happy to include other donations as well through Fearless Foundation.
ALL the latest UFC news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on UFC newsletter here!
Kayla Keeps It Real
Harrison is all about keeping it real, and that goes for what she says and does in front of the television cameras on fight nights, but it also stretches over to how she handles her social media platforms.
“I don’t believe in this glittery, fake social media presence. Life is gritty. Life is dirty. Life is hard. Life is ups and downs, highs and lows, good days and bad days, sunny days and rainy days,” said Harrison.
So following Harrison on social media reveals a complete picture of her life. While the highs, good days, and sunny days are all there, so is the rest of it. She’s spoken up in the past about some of the harder parts of her life, including childhood sexual abuse and suicidal thoughts, and she continues that same kind of vulnerable sharing today.
“I try to stay true to who I am… . I don’t know how else to be,” Harrison said.
Harrison said she remembers going through difficult times in her life and feeling like she was all alone, so her goal is to let people know that there is hope when things look down and that they are not by themselves in their struggles.
And while MMA fans and media have fallen in love as of late with her seemingly newfound mic skills, Harrison said her epic post-fight interviews aren’t scripted at all.
“It just broods in my head. I kind of start thinking about it before the fight, and it gets me a little worked up just thinking about it… . Then, I just let it rip. I trust my emotions. I trust my gut,” Harrison said.
Putting that ‘PFL Champ’ Track on Repeat
Harrison’s next fight takes place on August 19.
The 31-year-old women’s lightweight champion was supposed to face Muay Thai specialist Genah Fabian last season but the New Zealander pulled out of the contest. Now, the two stars will meet for the first time in the semi-finals of the 2021 playoffs.
“I’ve been preparing for this match for a while. I’m excited for it,” Harrison said.
Harrison is a big favorite to defeat Fabian, and she’s equally expected by oddsmakers to win her finals matchup, too.
If the PFL women’s lightweight championship is a song, it’s one Harrison hopes to keep on repeat for as long as she’s with the company.
But Harrison said the secret to her success at being one of the most dominant fighters in the world today was always viewing herself as the underdog.
That goes for her fight against Fabian on August 19, as well as her presumed finals showdown against Larissa Pacheco, a fighter that has repeatedly told anyone who would listen to her that all she’s done since getting beat by Harrison in the finals of the previous PFL season is prepare for the rematch.
Harrison remains unconcerned.
“Everybody thinks that I’m Goliath, but I always picture myself as David. It doesn’t matter how hard she works, I work harder,” Harrison said.
Big Decision Looms
All Harrison does is smash fools and cash checks.
That might not be completely accurate in regards to her entire life as a human being, but it’s an apt description of Harrison’s professional life as one of the best MMA fighters in the world.
Harrison is coming to the end of her current PFL contract, and she plans on having two gold belts around her waist and two million-dollar checks in her bank account when it comes time to renegotiate with the company.
In fact, Harrison’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, is already talking to the PFL about an extension, but Harrison said she isn’t quite sure what will come next in her career after this season is over.
“To be quite honest, I have things that I want to accomplish, and I don’t know if I can do that in the PFL,” Harrison said.
Harrison would be one of the hottest free agents on the market. UFC president Dana White has already publicly expressed interest in signing her to his roster, and there would be no better foil for Cris Cyborg over in the Bellator ranks than Harrison should that company come calling, too.
But Harrison isn’t closing the door on continuing her career with the PFL. She just wants to make sure her money is right.
“But if the PFL wants to compensate me and make their best effort to help make those things happen, then maybe we can come to an agreement. I hope so, but right now I just got to focus on smashing people’s faces in.”
YouTube: Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel