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 meeting with M&F before bell time. The American top team member spoke of her enduring love for MMA, family business, cyborg and gaining perspective in life.
Last time the two-time Olympic judo champion and current MMA phenom spoke to Muscle & Fitness, she was well on her way to her second PFL Lightweight title. When asked how she would spend this $1 million prize purse last year, Harrison said she would love to take her kids to Disney Land. After beating Taylor Guardado by an armbar in the second round of the finals, did they go on that family outing? "We weren't at Disney, we were at Legoland," laughs Harrison. “It was a little more age-appropriate for my son back then. Lego Land was fun, we had a great time.”
With Emery now 3 and Kyla 9, are you still doing gymnastics? "Actually, both have moved on," says the MMA icon. “At that point, my daughter was doing pretty much every sport there is. Athletics, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, and they both go to the gym with me now.”
Has the gym sparked the kids' interest in following in Mom's footsteps? "Oh yes, absolutely," says Harrison. "It's definitely a family business, you know, the kids come to the gym with me, they run around. Kyla goes to wrestling practice. My son wants this, he's just not old enough but he's always craving to get on the mats and learn moves so it's definitely a family business and I'm enjoying every minute of it."
Courtesy of PFL
Kayla Harrison loves London
Speaking 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, which was fantastic," says Kayla. Of course, Harrison's legacy as a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo is well entrenched in the annals of history, but when it comes to MMA, she's almost a week away from taking on her next challenge with Guardado. "The hay is in the barn, the jobs are done, it's just a matter of staying sharp, drilling," she says. "I've actually had the pleasure of training with the GB Top Team, [Head coached] by Brad Pickett, that was really fun. It's a great training facility and I really enjoyed my time there too.”
How is Harrison preparing for the task ahead in a matter of hours? "I like to sleep in because I know fight night is going to be a long night," she shares. "So I try to sleep in as much as possible unless media commitments prevent me, but it's really about rest, recovery and preparing to be my best self on Saturday night."
Will this be Kayla Harrison's last PFL season?
The inspirational fighter recently opened up about making this PFL season her last and it seems that indeed will be the case. "I think it's a lot of things, I think, you know, I'm 32, I'm not getting any younger. I will have [had] 16 fights to go until the end of this season and the season is a drain on both your body and your mind and you put your life on hold if you want to be successful," Harrison said. "Like you said, we haven't been to Disney, we don't take vacations. I haven't seen my family in Ohio since Christmas. Life is put on hold. I haven't been able to work on my Fearless Foundation the way I want to work on it. So, I guess it all kind of... makes sense to me, you know?
“I'm going to win the title (PFL Lightweight) three times, I'm willing to put up big fights and be patient and take my time and pick those and also I think I need to start living a little bit. There are other things I would like to invest some time in, and those are mostly the people I love and the foundation I'm passionate about.”
The #PFLPlayoffsLondon Main Event is OFFICIAL!
⚖️ @KaylaH: 155 pounds
⚖️ Martina Jindrova: 154 pounds pic.twitter.com/srALvJ5eOn
— PFL (@PFLMMA) August 19, 2022
Kayla Harrison wants to fight Cyborg?
With the possibility of Harrison taking marquee matches rather than fighting his way through another PFL season becoming a very real prospect, a potential dream match that will have everyone salivating is a fight between her and Cristiane Justino Venâncio, aka as a cyborg. Is that behind the hoopla a challenge Harrison is looking forward to? "Of course, yes, I would like to compete against Cyborg," says the PFL supremo. "She is a legend of the sport, she has achieved a lot, she was so good that we could not ignore her. Of course I would like to fight them.”
It seems that as long as she loves MMA, Kayla Harrison will continue to possess the hunger and passion required to test herself at the highest level. "I love what I do," she says. "I can honestly say sometimes I can't believe this is my life, you know? When I think about where it started, and I think too, really, statistically, [my success] It probably shouldn't happen, you know? It could have been a lot worse and I'm really grateful for the life I'm living. I wouldn't have it any other way... I am blessed beyond measure. I know that God gave me this path for a reason, and my goal is to do what He has planned for me to the best of my ability.”
Kayla Harrison is still taking her MMA career one fight at a time
Plans for future fights are one thing, but an MMA competitor's career is not defined by thoughts of fights that may come later. Just hours away, Martina Jindrova will likely prove herself a worthy challenger in the Copper Box Arena. "I've never fought Martina before, so she's a new opponent, a new puzzle to piece together and to solve," says Harrison. "I think everyone thinks I'm going to fight (Larissa) Pacheco in the finals, who I've fought before, and really I have to take it one step at a time, one fight at a time, one day at a time, you know du, 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 going to get out of there and I'm trying to take her 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 who instills her will and who best executes her game plan on her ability and I've prepared and I'm ready and now it's almost there."
Harrison vs Jindrova will be broadcast live from London on Saturday 20th August. For information on how to watch the fight anywhere, go to: PFLMMA