Kayla Harrison understands a lot of the questions surrounding her debut at UFC 300 won’t center around her skills or abilities but rather how she’s going to look setting foot on a scale at 135 pounds.
As she prepares to take on Holly Holm on the historic card on April 13, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, who earned those titles competing at nearly 172 pounds, admits that she’s not a big fan of weight cutting. In fact, Harrison revealed she actually didn’t walk around much bigger than 155 pounds when she fought at lightweight in the PFL because she didn’t want to torture her body with extreme weight cuts.
But the UFC doesn’t have a lightweight division or even a featherweight division any longer so if Harrison wanted to fight there, she had to make the choice to compete at 135 pounds.
”There’s a misperception out there that I walk around at like 180 pounds or something,” Harrison told KevinIole.com. “I have walked around most of my MMA career at 165, 160, because I don’t like cutting weight. I don’t believe in cutting weight. I don’t think it sends the right message to kids. That being said, I don’t agree with this but sometimes you have to show up and do things you don’t agree with in order to make your dreams come true.
“The whole time I was [in the PFL], I walked around at 165, maybe 160 and so not only was I usually the smaller fighter with less experience, I was getting in the cage with girls who were getting in there at 180, 175 pounds. Now, that’s not going to be the case.”
In order to prepare for the move to bantamweight, Harrison not only went through a test cut down to 135 pounds but she went through the necessary steps for recovery as if she was fighting the next day. Harrison then engaged in a fight simulation that allowed her to see how her body would react after cutting that much weight and then performing afterwards.
It was that entire process that gave Harrison the confidence she needed to know fighting at bantamweight in the UFC was not only possible but she would find success there.
“I wouldn’t have made the move if I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it,” Harrison said. “We did a test cut. Everything was measured, from my heart rate to my blood pressure to my blood sugar. We did a test recovery. We did a test simulated fight. Everything has been dialed in and everything has been tested.
“I’m really confident in my team and I’m really confident in myself. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but the things in life that are worth having are usually not easy [to obtain].”
Despite her 16-1 record with every fight taking place at lightweight minus two, Harrison knows she still gave up size to a lot of her opponents. She hopes that might change now that she’s competing as a bantamweight in the UFC.
Of course, the UFC didn’t give her a pass for her debut because Harrison has to go through a former champion in Holm, who holds a vicious knockout over another Olympic medalist in judo after she demolished Ronda Rousey back in 2015.
“I’m going to be the bigger, strong, faster and, in a lot of cases I believe, the more experienced fighter,” Harrison said. “It’s a case, I think, that I started off backwards, beginning [at the higher weight] but I was able to be successful because of my pedigree and the skill set that I brought to MMA. But now I have experience and now I am seasoned.
“The weight [cut] part’s going to suck, but it sucks for everyone, and I’m not special.”