Freestyle MMA fighter Kayla Harrison plans to move up to bantamweight

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. — Kayla Harrison says she doesn’t yet know where she’ll end up fighting this year, but she’s leaving her options open. And these options are wider than expected.

The former two-time Professional Fighters League women’s lightweight champion told ESPN on Monday that she was “considering” a future move to the bantamweight division. Harrison said she was hiring a chef and would look into bringing in a nutritionist to see if such a move was even physically viable.

In MMA, Harrison fought primarily at lightweight (155 pounds) and once at featherweight (145 pounds). A drop to bantamweight (135 pounds) would be significant. Harrison is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo at 78 kilograms (almost 172 pounds). She still doesn’t know if she would be able to take such a drastic fall in a healthy way.

But going to bantamweight would open up many more possible future opponents for Harrison. Julianna Peña defeated former Harrison teammate Amanda Nunes to claim the UFC women’s bantamweight title at UFC 269 in December. And Peña is someone Harrison would love to fight one day.

“I’m thinking about it,” Harrison said of the 135-pound transfer. “I heard Julianna said she would go up to 145 if they paid her enough, so that’s good news. It means I don’t have to cut off my arm. … I want to be the better. Everyone talks about him.”

The undefeated Harrison, 31, said she hadn’t thought much about moving up to bantamweight before, but “isn’t ruling it out anymore”.

“Why not?” said Harrison. “I have to conquer one mountain at a time, though. Whatever mountain comes next.”

Regarding her promotional status, Harrison said she’s still open and hasn’t made a decision yet. Reports emerged last month that the PFL were the clear favorites to secure his services. Harrison said that was true then, but is no longer the case.

“Other things have happened and there are last minute things happening behind closed doors that I’m not quite sure right now what’s going to happen,” Harrison said, adding that she will sign. “where it’s best for Kayla”. She is represented by manager Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA.

Harrison’s goal is to be the greatest female fighter of all time, a title currently held by Nunes. But after adopting her sister’s children, Kyla and Emery, last year, her priorities have changed a bit.

“Three years ago I would have said legacy,” Harrison said. “That’s all I don’t care about. My advisers, they care about safety. Obviously I have two kids now, so for me, as difficult as it may be, safety comes first. I I have to make sure. There are no guarantees in this life. There is no certainty. I could break my neck tomorrow and never fight again. Safety is important. But if I can find a way to have security and continue to build my legacy, I think that’s a winner.

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