Larissa Pacheco Says “PFL Does Not Mean Kayla Harrison” Ahead of Return at PFL 2

Four months on, the realization has settled in for Brazil’s Larissa Pacheco: she is the PFL women’s lightweight champion. She’s the woman with the target on her back this season.

Pacheco (19-4) is the woman who dethroned promotional darling Kayla Harrison in the PFL playoffs last year. And she’s not numb to the fact that she’s now the woman everyone is chasing.

“Yeah, it’s certainly sunk in, and [there’s] a lot of work to do,” Pacheco told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “A lot more work to do now that I’m the target for everyone else in the division.”

With Harrison, a two-time PFL women’s lightweight champion, having beaten Pacheco twice before, there was some sentiment in the aftermath of their third meeting, where the Brazlian won a unanimous decision, that Kayla may have been overlooking her opponent.

Pacheco doesn’t see it.

“I don’t think she was counting me out. I think she knew this was going to be a different fight. Not different in the way it was, but a tougher fight,” suggested Pacheco. “When you look back at the first two fights, the first two times I competed against her, the conditions I was coming from, not only financially but also physically and to be able to take the result to where I did, I think she kind of understood that I was rolling differently for this one, just in terms of the infrastructure that I had behind me, and the focus and everything else.”

Rather than Harrison underestimating her, Pacheco believes that “she was expecting a tougher fight than the first two prior encounters.”

Harrison is not back in the PFL regular season this year, which sees the women’s lightweight division gone, replaced by featherweight, where Pacheco will look to claim a second title.

“I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. This is something I could already see coming for a while, even before the championship last year. I didn’t think she was going to be joining the league again in 2023,” Pacheco said of Harrison’s absence. “I’m just looking to keep doing my job.”

As intertwined as their stories are, Pacheco added, “for me, PFL does not mean Kayla Harrison. That’s kind of how I see it. I’m just going to put my head down, keep doing my job, and I’m sure we’ll fight each other down the line again.”

In her opening bout of the regular season, Larissa Pacheco has drawn Julia Budd, a formidable opponent who competed in Strikeforce and Invicta FC before capturing the featherweight title in Bellator MMA, and defending it three times.

“I see this as a good fight for myself, I’m ready for it, I don’t anticipate major issues with this one,” said Pacheco, who noted that she is “well familiar” with Budd’s body of work, “even before joining the PFL. She’s fought tough competition, she’s held belts at other noteworthy organizations.”

It’s the chance to claim a title in a second division that is helping drive Pacheco these days.

“I definitely see this particular opportunity as a great one to write my name in PFL’s history books,” Pacheco told us. “It’s a different weight class, I’d be the first person in PFL history, man or woman, to hold two belts in two different weight classes. So very much looking forward to it.”

Watch our full interview with PFL 2022 women’s lightweight champion Larissa Pacheco above. Pacheco moves to featherweight when the regular season kicks off for the weight class at PFL 2 on April 7, 2022.