COCONUT CREEK, Fla. — Kayla Harrison says she does not yet know where she’ll end up fighting this year, but she’s leaving her options open. And those options are broader than expected.
The former two-time Professional Fighters League women’s lightweight champion told ESPN on Monday that she is “considering” a future move down to the bantamweight division. Harrison said she’s hiring a chef and will look into getting a nutritionist to see if such a move is even physically viable.
In MMA, Harrison has fought mostly at lightweight (155 pounds) and once at featherweight (145 pounds). A drop to bantamweight (135 pounds) would be a significant one. Harrison is a two-time Olympic judo gold medalist at 78 kilograms (nearly 172 pounds). She still isn’t sure if she’d be able to make such a drastic drop in a healthy manner.
But going to bantamweight would open up many more possible future opponents for Harrison. Julianna Peña beat Harrison’s former teammate Amanda Nunes to win the UFC women’s bantamweight title at UFC 269 in December. And Peña is someone Harrison would like to fight someday.
“I’m considering it,” Harrison said of the 135-pound move. “I heard that Julianna said she’d move up to 145 if they paid her enough, so that’s good news. That means I don’t have to chop off an arm. … I want to be the best. Everyone is talking about her.”
The undefeated Harrison, 31, said she had not given much thought to dropping to bantamweight before but “is not ruling it out anymore.”
“Why not?” Harrison said. “I have to conquer one mountain at a time, though. Whatever mountain comes next.”
As far as her promotional status, Harrison said she is still open and has yet to make a decision. Reports came out last month that the PFL was the clear front-runner to retain her services. Harrison said that was true at the time but is no longer the case.
“Other things have happened and there’s some last-minute things happening behind closed doors that I’m not entirely sure now what’s going to happen,” Harrison said, adding that she’ll sign “wherever is best for Kayla.” She’s represented by manager Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA.
Harrison’s goal is to be the best women’s fighter ever, which is a title currently held by Nunes. But after adopting her sister’s children, Kyla and Emery, last year, her priorities have shifted a bit.
“Three years ago, I would have said legacy,” Harrison said. “That’s all I give a s— about. My advisers, they care about security. Obviously, I have two kids now, so for me, as hard as it is, security comes first. I have to make sure. There’s no guarantees in this life. There’s no certainties. I could snap my neck tomorrow and never fight again. Security is important. But if I can find a way to have security and continue to build my legacy, I think that’s a winner.”