PFL Announces Re-Signing of Lightweight Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison PFL
Kayla Harrison, PFL 2021 World Championship post-fight press conference Credit: Alex Behunin/Cageside Press

After a lengthy stretch as a free agent during which every major promotion showed interest in her services, Kayla Harrison is headed home.

Despite a strong offer from Bellator MMA, Harrison (12-0) will return to the PFL for the 2022 season. League officials announced Tuesday that the two-time Olympic gold medallist, and two-time Professional Fighters League champion, had re-signed.

Terms of Harrison’s new contract were not disclosed, however the promotion did confirm it is a multi-year deal.

MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani had previously revealed that the PFL had matched an offer made by Bellator to retain the star. As recently as yesterday, Harrison appeared on Helwani’s The MMA Hour to discuss her frustration with the length of time the free agency process was taking.

The undefeated Harrison has been the face of the PFL almost from the minute she signed with the company. Making her debut in 2018, she joined the regular season the following year, winning the inaugural women’s lightweight tournament and title.

With the 2020 season scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, Harrison took a single fight outside the PFL — down a weight class, at featherweight, under the Invicta FC banner. She dominated there as well, opening the door for a potential move to the UFC or Bellator, both of whom have a women’s featherweight division.

After winning the PFL’s 2021 season, back at lightweight, Harrison entered free agency with the spectre of fights with either Amanda Nunes (UFC featherweight champion) or Cris Cyborg (Bellator MMA featherweight champion) looming large. However, with the UFC setting up Nunes in a rematch with Julianna Pena, and the PFL matching Bellator’s offer, neither fight will come to pass.

Harrison will face increased competition in the Professional Fighters League this year, however. Last year, the PFL signed former Bellator MMA featherweight champion and Strikeforce fighter Julia Budd. The Canadian made her debut for the promotion outside the season tournament, defeating Kaitlin Young at PFL 10 in October.

Budd’s only losses as a professional are to Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey, and Cris Cyborg — all of whom would go on to become champions in the UFC. A potential match-up with Harrison should be one to watch out for come the start of the PFL’s 2022 season, which kicks off this April.