A potentially major news story happened behind closed doors last week, as PFL lightweight champion Kayla Harrison made the 146-pound featherweight limit for the first time in her career.
A former two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, Harrison (8-0) is under contract with PFL, but received permission to fight Courtney King (4-1) at Invicta FC 43 last week in Kansas City, Missouri. Harrison had only competed at 155 pounds in MMA until last week, and is a vocal critic of cutting weight. She was forced to accept a featherweight contest, however, as no one would fight her at 155 pounds.
Harrison weighed in at 145.9 pounds ahead of the bout, which she won via second-round TKO. The weigh-in was closed to the public, and flew well under the radar — but the fact Harrison proved she could make 146 pounds (and potentially, 145-pound championship weight if need be) was a major development in her career and the landscape of female MMA.
“I got to fight week about 153 pounds, and had to quarantine the whole time,” Harrison told ESPN. “I brought plastics and sat in an Epsom salt bath for the first time ever. It was terrible. But I got down to 146 pounds the night before, and ate and drank to help me sleep. I woke up the next morning and only needed 15 more minutes in the bath to be on weight.
“Everybody knows, I don’t believe in weight cutting. I don’t believe it’s super healthy. But I also understand I’m in the business of Kayla Harrison, and there are going to be more opportunities for me to fight at 145 pounds. There aren’t a lot of fights for me at 155, so this is probably going to be in my future.”
Harrison almost didn’t fight at all in 2020, as PFL elected to suspend its entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The promotion will start up its 2021 season in April in Las Vegas.
Last week’s fight against King took a long time to arrange, as PFL had to sign off on it before an opponent could even be arranged. Harrison said she later found out her own manager, Ali Abdelaziz, offered to pay King an extra $5,000 on top of her contracted pay to accept the fight. Harrison is hopeful she could fight in Invicta again in January, and possibly in another organization next month.
Harrison said her exclusive contract with PFL runs through the end of the 2021 season. Should she remain undefeated, a fight between Harrison and UFC two-weight champion Amanda Nunes could be an exciting proposal in 2022. Harrison, who is friends with Nunes and trains out of the same gym as her in Florida, said she’s interested in that fight but also not banking her future on it.
Regardless of any situation with Nunes, there will likely be more opportunities for Harrison — at featherweight. And now, she’s proven she can make the weight.
“I didn’t suffer making the weight as bad as I or probably others thought I would,” Harrison said. “I always knew I could make 145, I just didn’t want to do it. Realistically, there will be more fights for me at this weight. There’s that part of me that wants to fight the best, and Amanda is the greatest of all time. So, yes, making weight last week is a step towards that.
“But there is another piece that has realized through competition, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. For my own personal reasons, I would love to fight Amanda someday and test my skills against her. I’m not ready for that yet, but I know that I will be ready someday, and hopefully she’ll still be fighting by then and we’ll do it with respect and integrity.”