Kayla Harrison Should Consider Creating Her Own Kind Of Legacy
Kayla Harrison has been in the headlines lately with the start of the PFL’s third season. Harrison is the two-time promotion champion and is looking for a hat-trick this season with another championship and another check. Recently, however, Harrison took to the Helwani Show saying she’s not pursuing anything other than the legacy. The two-time Olympic gold medalist is one of the most sought-after products in terms of future prospects in sport. But, with its legacy goals, the PFL might struggle to keep both, perhaps three times, champions.
If I were directing Kayla Harrison, which I am not, I would have a different career path than most others would have for Harrison. Major fans want Harrison to be in the UFC and take on incumbent champion Amanda Nunes. But there is another way to build Harrison’s legacy …
Kayla Harrison: The Boxing Approach
Boxing takes a lot of flack to have an absurd amount of belts for champions. There are the IBF World, IBO World, WBA Gold World, WBA Super World, WBA World, WBC Diamond, WBC World, WBO Global and WBO World belts. It’s just a weight class and doesn’t count the interim champions.
But, the appeal of many belts comes from the photo ops. Take a look at this photo:
Floyd Mayweather looks like an undisputed champion. Regardless of what you think of the selection of his opponents, Mayweather has the collection of trophies that very few people can compete with. This is the angle Kayla Harrison should take in her career.
Even the current Bellator champion, Cris Cyborg, recently took this approach after winning the Bellator Championship. Cyborg posed with his Strikeforce, Invicta, UFC and Bellator belts. But it’s an end-of-career tactic and Kayla Harrison can belts her career identity.
After winning gold at the Olympics, Henry Cejudo won two UFC belts and crowned himself Triple C. Cejudo’s approach is more than I can imagine for Harrison. So what is the right career path for the Olympic champion?
The belt collector
At 9-0, Harrison is already very accomplished and very wealthy. With at least $ 2 million in the bank after winning two PLF Championships, she is ready and can devote all of her time and resources to the legacy department. Harrison has been on Invicta before and I think this is his next stop, although it is short. With her victory over Courtney King at Invicta FC 43, there is justification for her having a chance to win the featherweight title against current champion Pam Sorenson. This one-off fight could hurt Invicta but would help Harrison. After capturing two belts, PFL and Invicta, Harrison can boast his two belts and two gold medals.
Then there is Bellator. She moved on to the second largest promotion in the United States and built her legacy there. She will be in the 14-0 stage if things go as planned. She can either take on Cyborg, if she’s still the champion, or fight a number one contender. Then the deception comes.
Bellator loves cross promotional fights with RIZIN. RIZIN doesn’t currently have a Women’s Featherweight Division or Champion, but that doesn’t mean they can’t DIY one and do a Grand Prix for a belt, they do it all the time. Say Kayla Harrison wins this too by portraying Bellator, two more fights. After the Bellator has passed, his time is up. She recovered the PFL belt, the Invicta, the Bellator and a RIZIN Grand Prix strap.
Finally, the UFC. He’s 2024ish in this timeline and Harrison is at least 17-0. Nunes may be retired, of course, but the belt is still up for grabs. It’s up to Harrison to make history from there.
A different heritage
Many believe that winning a UFC title is a great legacy and defending a title is the end, everything is for a great MMA fighter. But with Cejudo’s achievements and MMA moving in the direction of boxing, that is all about to change. The sport is more passionate about crossover fights and Eddie Alvarez recently had an unsuccessful stint trying to capture the ONE Championship belt. But, the precedence of the idea is there. Harrison is going on a promotional tour, grabbing every championship possible is the future of the sport, like it or not.
Kayla Harrison comes out and wins all the belts, making her career identity, pushing the point and really making it clear that she plans to dominate the MMA world in any way she can. The bet is that Amanda Nunes stays long enough. If she were to go to the UFC, Harrison might be too early for the fight. Too late and Harrison will be in the shadow of champion Nunes for her entire career. But should she take a trip around the world and dominate everywhere, with or without Nunes, she has the best case for the greatest female fighter, and possibly the best combat sport fighter of all time. It is not a traditional legacy that fans are used to, but it is an evolving legacy in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Of course, Harrison could just quit with the PFL and dominate it, make a million dollars a year, year after year, and become a stinky rich man.