Securing her spot in the PFL 2019 playoffs, undefeated Kayla Harrison plans to prove she’s one of the best to ever grace the fight game — and feels Sarah Kaufman is a stepping stone along that path.
Atlantic City, NJ — There are a few key words that can describe Kayla Harrison’s win over Morgan Frier Thursday night at PFL 4 2019. In the final fight of the women’s lightweight regular season, ‘Judo Kayla,’ very much a promotional darling, came out seemingly looking to make a statement. She was determined. Focused. Punishing. Downright nasty, putting everything and the kitchen sink into her punches, before snatching an arm and submitting Frier with a key lock.
It was a vastly different outcome than her fight with Larissa Pacheco back in May. That ended with a decision win for Harrison, but she was never happy with the result. In fact, it left her in tears. Improving to 5-0 against Frier, however, a much happier Harrison spoke to media members including Cageside Press following the fight.
Asked about the difference between her last performance, and her showing Thursday night, Harrison suggested it was “a lot of things. Last fight I was fighting a very experienced opponent. It was very short notice, I found out about my opponent change two days before. So I didn’t really have time to study.” Her coaches may have also glossed over Pacheco’s qualifications. “To be quite honest, I’m not going to blame my coaches, but they’re like ‘oh you got this.’ They kind of downplayed it I think just to keep me relaxed. So I went in there thinking she would be a lot easier then she was.”
Instead, she found that Pacheco “was really tough, very smart, really good survivor. I don’t think I was ever really in any danger, but just an experienced girl. I struggled to put her away, and I wasn’t happy with that. But this time [against Morgan Frier], things went a lot better.”
That they did. Harrison earned six points, and a spot in the PFL 2019 post-season. Had she lost the bout, especially via a finish, she might have been left out of the playoffs.
Another factor in the difference between performances, Harrison feels, was activity. “I had six months off before I fought Larissa. And this is a very short turnaround. And I come from an Olympic background, where you fight back-to-back-to-back. You spend six weeks in Europe going from tournament to tournament to tournament. I like that feeling of being on the go, being on the grind.”
Ultimately, despite less time between fights, she had more time to prepare for Morgan Frier, and the end result was a dominant win. Which is exactly what Harrison is always looking for.
“I want to win in the most dominant fashion possible. I want to go out there, I don’t want to get a scratch on me,” she said Thursday, back stage at the Ocean Casino Resort’s Ovation Hall. “I want to beat them, beat them, beat them until they want to quit. And then they don’t ever want to get back in that cage with me ever again.”
Harrison’s goal, of course, is the title. Looming in the distance, arguably standing in the way, is former Strikeforce and Invicta FC champ Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman and Harrison are the top two women’s seeds in the tournament, the Canadian just ahead of Kayla.
While there’s been little criticism of Harrison’s career thus far, the lack of a big, quality opponent might be the one sticking point for some. Asked by Cageside Press if she’d like that fight just to put such concerns to rest, Harrison answered “Yeah. Honestly, I’ll fight anyone, any time, anywhere. I’m not here to have easy matches or easy fights and just run away with the money.”
“I’ve made it very clear that my goal is to go down as one of the best to ever to it,” she said of her objective in MMA. “I know that’s going to take time, and I know it’s going to take patience, and I know it’s a long road. But I’m in it for the long haul, and I think Sarah Kaufman is a stepping stone to that path.”
For more from PFL 4 2019 winner Kayla Harrison, watch her full post-fight press conference appearance above!