It’s a rarity that we see Kayla Harrison go the distance, but that’s exactly what happened for the women’s lightweight star at PFL 3 this past Friday.
Harrison (13-0), a two-time gold medal winner in Judo at the Olympics, kicked off her 2022 PFL season against Marina Mokhnatkina, a Sambo champ. The Russian was crafty enough to survive on the ground, but Harrison was still dominant there — and also controlled the fight on the feet.
“I think I landed the most strikes on my feet this fight, so I was proud of that,” Harrison said back stage following her win. “I don’t think I really got hit at all during the fight— I think I had good movement, I think I had good footwork. I felt like the distance, I was reading it well. I didn’t really ever feel in danger. I’m still getting used to everything on my feet, and she did a good job surviving on the ground.”
Harrison will now look ahead to the second fight of the PFL’s regular season. The two-time women’s lightweight champion is once again the favorite to win it all. Larissa Pacheco, who Harrison has already beaten twice, appears to be her biggest threat, especially with Julia Budd, the former Bellator featherweight champ, being upset Friday.
But for those watching at home who have grown tired of Harrison being a big fish in a small pond, talk will no doubt turn to what might have been against Cris Cyborg. Bellator MMA attempted to sign Kayla Harrison when she entered free agency following the PFL’s 2021 season; the league eventually matched their offer, exercising a matching rights clause in her contract.
Now, the only glimmer of hope in terms of seeing the fight come to fruition is either co-promotion, or Cyborg joining the PFL. For Harrison, however, the questions appear to have become bothersome — and the ball, she says, is in Cyborg’s court.
“On to the next fight. My thoughts aren’t on Cyborg right now,” a somewhat curt Harrison told reporters. “Obviously, the season, four fights in five and a half months is grueling, it’s a grind. I see a lot of areas where I need to get better. My focus is on me, not on Cyborg. I’m tired of talking about her, I’m tired of thinking about her. Now she’s gonna be a free agent. The ball’s in her court. If she wants this fight, she knows where I’m at. Don’t ask me any more questions about Cyborg tonight, okay?”
Earlier this year, Cyborg said she had “one or two” fights left on her current Bellator deal, with the next one likely to feature Arlene Blencowe. That fight happened last month, with Cyborg winning a one-sided decision. Which means she may still have one fight to go — and in the meantime has expressed interest in a boxing match.
Watch the full PFL 3 post-fight press scrum with Kayla Harrison above.