Kayla Harrison had a huge 2019. The two-time Olympic gold medalist in Judo won the PFL’s lightweight tournament last season, collecting the million dollar prize that came with it.
2020, however, is a very different animal. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, there is no PFL season this year. That put Harrison in a bind. With no opportunity to fight in the Professional Fighter’s League, something had to give. Still young in her career, she needed to compete.
Something finally did give. Harrison (7-0) will fight this Friday, taking on Courtney King at Invicta FC 43.
“I said early in the year that mark my words, I wasn’t going to go a whole year without fighting, and I meant it,” Harrison told Cageside Press ahead of the fight. “Obviously the PFL is not doing fights this year, so we had to figure out a way to make that happen.”
It wasn’t easy, but a couple of weeks back, Harrison and her team got a deal in place. She’ll compete in the Invicta cage, with the blessing of the PFL. “A lot of work went in behind the scenes to get this done,” said Harrison, noting the effort put in by her manager. “Now it’s here, finally. I’m going to fight at 145, I’m going to fight one more time before I finish out my contractual duties next year.”
By that, Harrison means the plan is to fight once more before the PFL’s 2021 season. “I was supposed to fight four times this year. If they tell me they’ve got a fight for next week, then I’m going to take a fight next week. But I’m going to fight hopefully twice before the season next year.”
As to whether that proposed second fight will be under the Invicta FC banner, “I’m not entirely sure. I think so,” said Harrison, who added that she’s “super happy and thankful to Invicta for opening their arms to me, allowing me to come under their organization and fight.” Harrison is also thankful to Courtney King, “for stepping up and accepting the fight when no one else would.”
“Hopefully I fight for Invicta again. I like it so far, it’s been nothing but good stuff from them,” she added.
Aside from Harrison being granted the okay to fight outside of the PFL, the big news is that she’s making the move to 145lbs. Something many observers have long been waiting for — but that Harrison herself has been resistant against.
“It’s no secret, all of my career, I don’t believe in cutting weight. I’ve been against it, I’m still against it,” Harrison said on that front. “I don’t think it sends a good message to kids, I think it’s super unhealthy for our bodies, I think it can be dangerous at times, getting in the cage, getting punched in the head after dehydrating your body to extreme amounts.”
Harrison has a myriad of reasons for forgoing a large weight cut. “Number one, I don’t want to cut weight because I’m hypoglycemic, and I have low blood sugar. Number two, I don’t think it sends the right message. And number three, from a young age, I was taught that if you’re going to win, you’re going to win at whatever weight you fight, and it doesn’t matter who’s across from you,” she explained. “And that’s something that I really believe and was instilled in me.”
Admittedly, however, “this year has thrown a lot of curve balls at me, and I had to make some choices.” What it boiled down to was, did Harrison want to fight, or not? “It was either, sit on my high horse and say ‘no I’m not going to cut weight,’ or accept the fight at 145. No one wanted to fight at 155, so I didn’t really have much of a choice. I got my weight down, I’ve dieted, and been very disciplined and professional about it.”
In the end, she’s hoping that she won’t have to cut too much weight. When we spoke, Harrison was down to about 153lbs.
One positive side effect, however, is that making 145lbs for Invicta FC 43 will “hush [the doubters] up for now. It will give me the confidence to know that I can make the weight healthily and in a safe way. My goal is to be the best in the world. If I want to be the best in the world, I’m going to probably have to go where the best in the world are.”
At the moment, Harrison’s focus is on Friday night and Courtney King. “After that, it will be the next opponent, and then I will fulfill my duties, and then we’ll see what happens.” Her duties including fighting out her PFL contract, which is done following the 2021 season.
While she’s no doubt that promotion’s biggest star, “I’m in the business of Kayla Harrison, and that’s it,” Harrison said. “And Kayla Harrison’s job isn’t to make money, it isn’t to look pretty, it isn’t to be famous. Kayla Harrison’s job is to be the best fighter in the world.”
Watch our full interview with Kayla Harrison above. Invicta FC 43 airs live this Friday, November 20 on UFC Fight Pass.