Kayla Harrison doesn’t want to ‘jinx it,’ but Cris Cyborg fight suddenly ‘feels closer than ever’

Kayla Harrison vs. Cris Cyborg has long been one of the most discussed matchups in women’s MMA.

For years, the fight was seen as more of a pipe dream than a possibility because of the promotional restrictions between the two rivals. But that changed on Monday once PFL announced its acquisition of Bellator and all athlete contracts under the Bellator umbrella.

“It does, it feels closer than ever,” Harrison said of the Cyborg bout on The MMA Hour. “It feels closer than ever, and that’s why I’m not going to jinx it. I’m not going to talk about it, I’m not going to think about it. I’m just going to focus on Friday, do everything I have to do to set up that awesome event. But until then, I’m not thinking about it.”

A two-time Olympic gold medalist and a two-time PFL champion, Harrison, 33, remains one of the faces of the PFL. She returns this Friday in a 150-pound catchweight bout against UFC veteran Aspen Ladd at the promotion’s 2023 championship finale card, which takes place at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. It marks Harrison’s first fight of 2023 and first since suffering a stunning defeat at the hands of Larissa Pacheco in November 2022.

Cyborg, 38, is the reigning Bellator women’s featherweight champion. Her and Harrison have butted heads in interviews and on social media for years over a potential matchup, to the point where Harrison inked a free-agent contract with Bellator in 2022 in order to face Cyborg before PFL ultimately matched the deal. Cyborg even purchased the rights to JudoKayla.com as a means to promote not only the fight, but also her various businesses.

Those previous false starts, however, are why Harrison isn’t counting her chickens just yet.

“I just get so tired of talking about it,” Harrison said. “I just get tired of talking about her.”

Cyborg tweeted words of support to PFL executives Donn Davis and Peter Murray on Monday following news of the Bellator acquisition. She has since continued to promote JudoKayla.com on social media underneath posts involving Harrison.

Harrison is choosing to stay focused on Ladd and the task at hand, at least for now, but as someone whose entire MMA career has played out under the PFL banner, she’s also impressed with how far the promotion has come since she first climbed aboard in 2016.

“I’ve been signed with the PFL before they were the PFL,” Harrison said. “I was technically signed to the World Series of Fighting. I’ve had all of my fights here. I’ve grown up here, I’ve grown up with these guys. And it’s been really, really cool to watch where it began and to see where it is now, and to see them have such a major [impact]. This is like a power move, right? They just bought Bellator, and they have Francis [Ngannou] and they have Jake [Paul], and they’re disrupting the sport in a big, big way, and I was a part of the beginning of that and it’s awesome.

“So, for me, this is all good stuff. I’m excited for the future, but I can’t think about any of that really until I handle business on Friday night. You’ve got to stay focused.”

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