PFL women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison isn’t all that thrilled about having to lug her two children with her into quarantine inside the PFL’s bubble environment for 17 days at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and that’s bad news for her opponent.
Because the 30-year-old PFL champ plans on channeling all that negative energy into just one thing: pummeling Mariana Moraes on Thursday at PFL 3.
“For sure, everything that’s gone wrong, or is a bit of a hiccup, is annoying or frustrating, or anything like that, I just say ‘blame my opponent’,” Harrison said.
Harrison, 30, is undefeated in MMA and the reigning PFL women’s lightweight champion. She’s been tabbed by oddsmakers as the overwhelming favorite to capture gold again, and she’s an even bigger favorite to defeat Moraes this week in her 2021 season debut.
PFL 3 will be telecast live via ESPN on Thursday, May 6 beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
You can watch Harrison chat about her upcoming fight and much more below.
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Harrison’s Toughest Tests Came Outside Cage
Harrison is one of the most decorated combat sports athletes in the world.
She’s an MMA champ and a two-time Olympic champion. She became the United States’ first American gold medalist in Judo at London 2012, and she repeated the stunning accomplishment four years later at Rio 2016.
But Harrison’s toughest fights didn’t happen on the mat or inside the cage. On her way to winning her first gold medal, Harrison revealed she had been sexually abused by her first Judo coach and said the difficulties she encountered recovering from those experiences almost cost her life.
In 2017, Harrison penned a CNN article in which she describes having “struggled with thoughts of suicide for years, during the abuse and after the abuse” and she expressed the scars of the abuse have lingered.
“Whether we like it or not…that kind of trauma leaves scars. I don’t have any physical wounds that you can see on my body but I have scars. And anyone who suffers from child sexual abuse has scars,” Harrison said.
Harrison wants people who have experienced something similar to know there can be light at the end of the tunnel. She also wants to help educate.
Working with two Harvard assistant professors, she co-wrote “Fighting Back” in 2018, a book created to help educate readers on how to recognize signs of predatory behavior. She also founded a charity organization with the same goal, Fearless Foundation.
“I truly believe that I went through what I went through so I can help change the world. It’s a big part of the reason I do MMA,” Harrison said.
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Harrison’s Future Remains Insanely Bright Though Increasingly Unclear
When Harrison signed with the PFL back in 2016 (then called the World Series of Fighting), she did so with all the glitz and glamour that comes along with being a two-time Olympic champion and former training partner of UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey.
But when Harrison re-upped with the company for a multi-year extension in 2019, she did so after proving herself to be one of the brightest prospects in all of MMA.
Now, Harrison’s stock is skyrocketing, and some wonder where she’ll end up fighting next year. She’s virtually become the face of the franchise for the PFL, and that’s become increasingly impressive since the company lured the likes of Anthony Pettis, Fabricio Werdum, and Rory MacDonald into the fold.
But Harrison believes whether she stays or goes will ultimately be up to the PFL.
“If they can bring in the big names, if they can bring in the greatest, then I can stay and I can fight the greatest here. But if they can’t, then in order to accomplish what I want to accomplish, I need to fight the greatest,” Harrison said.
Harrison wants to finish her MMA career the same way she finished Judo. She wants to be listed among the best ever to do it.
Harrison’s Next Fight at PFL 3 on ESPN
Harrison kicks off her 2021 season by facing Mariana Moraes at PFL 3. That same card also features the debut of former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum.
PFL 3 will air live on ESPN on Thursday, May 6 beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
There’s one preliminary card fight exclusively on ESPN+ starting at 5:30 p.m. ET with the rest of the prelims kicking off on ESPN at 7 p.m ET.
Harrison enters the 2021 season as a world champion and a millionaire. She plans on leaving 2021 with another world championship and another million dollars.
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