PFL’s Harrison: ‘Slim’ chance she’ll fight Cyborg
- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for “MMA Live”
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
Two-time Professional Fighters League lightweight champion Kayla Harrison believes the chances of her ever meeting Cris “Cyborg” Justino are “slim” following Justino’s decision to re-sign with Bellator MMA last week.
Harrison (15-1) said she has two fights left on her PFL contract, which is set to expire in December. The PFL opted to not utilize Harrison in its 2023 season format, in favor of trying to set up a pay-per-view event between her and Justino. The PFL made a strong push to sign Justino, but she ultimately returned to Bellator, where she is a featherweight champion.
“I was told it was a done deal with PFL, that she was going to sign and plan [to fight her] on ‘this date,'” Harrison told ESPN. “So, I had a lot of hope. It is what it is. I can’t control it.
“I think [the chances of this fight ever happening] are slim. I think it’s pretty slim. I’m not going to lie to the fans. I think the chances of us fighting are decreasing, not increasing.”
Harrison is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo and considered one of the top female fighters in the world. There’s been speculation around a fight between Justino and Harrison for years, really ever since Harrison made her professional MMA debut in 2018. Harrison agreed to sign with Bellator last year in order to make the fight happen, but the PFL exercised a matching right in her contract, which prevented it.
The PFL went all-in on the matchup this year. Now that Justino is back with Bellator, it leaves Harrison in limbo. The most obvious matchup for Harrison in the PFL is a fourth meeting against 2022 champion Larissa Pacheco, who handed Harrison her first loss via unanimous decision last November. The two have already fought three times, though. Harrison defeated Pacheco twice in 2019.
It’s possible Harrison could go all year without a fight due to the lack of options. Harrison, 32, said she doesn’t believe that will happen, but acknowledged the possibility.
“I think they’re going to find a way for me to fight,” said Harrison, on the PFL. “I believe in them, they believe in me and they want me to fight. It’s not in their best interest to sit on me and they have to pay me a ton of money. So, they’re gonna find a way … I’ve also been counseled [not fighting] could happen and I need to prepare myself for that. So, I’m trying to. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying to prepare if I don’t.”
According to Harrison, she becomes an unrestricted free agent in December, and is likely to draw interest from the PFL, Bellator and the UFC. She did say one silver lining in the in activity of 2023, thus far, is that she’s healed from lingering injuries and has plenty of time left in the sport despite the recent frustrations.
“I’m hungry,” Harrison said. “A lot of the health concerns that were f—ing me up last year have, thank God, subsided. So, yeah. I’m not going anywhere.”
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