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Kayla Harrison (14-0-0) is back in London for her PFL Playoff clash against Martina Jindrova (6-2-0) on Saturday night, but still found a moment for an exclusive catch-up with M&F ahead of bell time. The American Top Team member spoke of her continued love of MMA, family business, Cyborg, and gaining perspective on life.
The last time that the two-time Olympic Judo gold medalist and current MMA phenom, talked to Muscle & Fitness, she was well on the way to her second PFL Lightweight title win. When asked last year how she would spend that $1 million prize purse, Harrison said that she would love to take her kids to Disney Land. So, having taking out Taylor Guardado with an arm bar in the second round of the finals, did they make that family trip? “We didn’t go to Disney, we went to Lego Land instead,” laughs Harrison. “A little more age appropriate for my son, at the time. Lego Land was fun though, we had a blast.”
With Emery now 3, and Kyla 9, are they still pursuing gymnastics? “Actually, they have both moved on,” says the MMA icon. “My daughter has done pretty much every sport there is to do at this point. Track, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, and they both go to the gym with me now.”
So, has the gym environment piqued the kids interest for following in Mom’s footsteps? “Oh yeah, absolutely,” says Harrison. “It’s definitely a family business, you know the kids come to the gym with me, they’re running around. Kyla goes to wrestling practice. My son wants to, he’s just not old enough yet, but he’s always crying to get on the mats and wanting to learn moves, so it’s definitely a family business and I love every minute of it.”
Talking of Love, Harrison is back in London to fight on Saturday, this is the same city that hosted the 2012 Olympics. “We actually took a little trip down memory lane on Tuesday and went back to the Excel Arena where I won my gold medal, so that was fantastic,” shares Kayla. Of course, Harrison’s legacy as a two-time Olympic gold medalist in Judo is well cemented in the annals of history, but in terms of MMA, it’s right back to fight week in order to face her next challenge with Guardado. “The hay is in the barn, the works been done, it’s just about staying sharp, drilling,” she says. “I actually had the pleasure of going to train at GB Top Team, [Head coached] by Brad Pickett, so that was really fun. It’s a great training facility and I really enjoyed my time training there as well.”
With just hours now to go until bell time, how does Harrison prepare for the task at hand? “I like to sleep in because I know that fight night is going to be a late night,” she shares. “So, I try to sleep in as long as I can, unless media obligations deter me from that but it’s really about rest, recovery, and getting ready to be my best self on Saturday night.”
The inspirational fighter has been commenting recently about making this PFL season her last, and it seems that this will indeed be the case. “I think it’s a multitude of things, I think that, you know, I’m 32, I’m not getting any younger. I’ll have [had] 16 fights by the end of this season and the season is a grind both on your body and mentally and you put your life on hold if you want to be successful,” says Harrison. “Like you said, we haven’t gone to Disney, we don’t take vacations. I haven’t seen my family in Ohio since Christmas. Life gets put on hold. I haven’t been able to work on my Fearless Foundation the way I would wanna work on it. So, I think that everything just kind of… it makes sense for me, you know?
“I’m going to win the (PFL Lightweight) title 3-times, I’m ready to fight big fights and be patient and take my time and choose those, and I also think I gotta start living a little bit. There are other things that I want to invest some time into and that’s mostly the people I love and the foundation that I am passionate about.”
The #PFLPlayoffsLondon Main Event is OFFICIAL!
—PFL (@PFLMMA) August 19, 2022
With the possibility of Harrison taking marquee matches rather than grinding through another PFL season becoming a very real prospect, one potential dream match that has everyone salivating is a fight between herself and Cristiane Justino Venâncio, otherwise known as Cyborg. Behind the hoopla, is this a challenge that Harrison is excited about? “Of course, yeah, I’d love to test myself against Cyborg,” says the PFL supremo. “She’s a legend of the sport, she’s accomplished a lot, she’s been so good that we couldn’t ignore her. Of course, I’d love to fight her.”
It seems that as long as Kayla Harrison still has love for MMA, she will continue to own the hunger and passion required to test herself at the greatest level. “I love what I do,” she says. “I can honestly say that I can’t believe this is my life sometimes, you know? When I think about where it started and I think too, really, like statistically, [my success] probably was not supposed to happen, you know? It could have gone a lot worse and I’m really truly grateful for the life I live. I wouldn’t want it any other way … I’m blessed beyond measure. I know that God gave me this path for a reason and my goal is to just do what he has planned for me, to the best of my ability.”
Plans for future fights are one thing, but the career of an MMA competitor is not determined by thoughts of bouts that might happen down the line. Just hours away, Martina Jindrova will likely prove herself as a worthy challenger at the Copper Box Arena. “I’ve never fought Martina before so, she’s a new opponent, a new puzzle to put together and solve,” says Harrison. “I think everyone thinks I’ll fight (Larissa) Pacheco in the finals, who I have fought before, and really I gotta take it one step at a time, one fight at a time, one day at a time, you know, you can’t get there if you skip this step so the focus is on Martina. I’m looking forward to a good fight on Saturday night. She’s gonna come out there and I try and take my head off and my job is to go out there and try to take her head off, and I think it’s going to be about who instils their will and who implements their gameplan to the best of their ability and I’ve prepared, and I’m ready, and it’s almost time now.”
Harrison vs. Jindrova will be broadcast live from London on Saturday, August 20. For information on how you can watch the fight where ever you are, visit: PFLMMA