Morning Report: Kayla Harrison doesn’t have ‘much faith’ in ‘easy fight’ with Cris Cyborg ahead of free agency

Interesting times await PFL superstar Kayla Harrison in 2024.

After re-signing with the promotion ahead of the 2022 season, Harrison’s contract included that she’d move past the tournament format in 2023 to become a PPV-exclusive fighter. Unfortunately for the former two-time lightweight champion, that led to her watching from the sidelines for the entirety of the year until last weekend’s championship event PPV main card.

It was announced that same week that the PFL had acquired longstanding major MMA organization Bellator. Therefore, Harrison and her dream opponent Cris “Cyborg” Justino have been brought together in one overall promotion after previous failed attempts at putting a matchup together. The Bellator featherweight champion received an expected callout from Harrison after her unanimous decision win over Aspen Ladd this past Friday. However, to her disappointment, there’s been little banter back in Harrison’s direction.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Harrison said on DC & RC. “She only talks s*** when we’re in different promotions and there’s somewhere to hide. Now that we’re under the same roof, I feel she’s gonna get real quiet real fast.

“I don’t even want to talk about her because I feel like every time I do it’s just jinxing it. We’ve been talking about this fight since before I made my MMA debut. I’m 17 fights in now. So, if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen soon but I don’t have much faith in her. Easy fight.”

Harrison’s previous free agency period led her to sign with Bellator for an April 2022 title fight showdown against Cyborg in Hawaii at Bellator 279. That was until the PFL matched the rights to the offer, keeping Harrison put until her contract expires at the end of this year.

Now that Bellator is a part of PFL, Harrison’s options are limited mightily with the UFC as the only other realistic landing spot. Having never fought lower than 145 pounds in her career, that would also have to be a possible change required for Harrison should she depart her current fighting home.

“I haven’t thought about it a lot,” Harrison said of her next move. “My goal was to have a fight this year and to get back inside the cage and feel good, get the ring rust off. The fight ended up being at a [150-pound] catchweight because it was a short-notice opponent change so it was at 150 but I didn’t have to cut any weight at all. I dieted down. I had breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack the day before weigh-ins and I said, ‘You know what, guys, let’s just go to bed. We’ll wake up and have whatever we have to cut,’ and I woke up and I was on weight.

“I’m really glad that the discipline paid off. I hired a weight-cut specialist. I’m very blessed and very grateful for that, but I also know my worth and I think that that’s an important piece of fighting. I know my worth, I know my value and that’s why I got your boy Ali [Abdelaziz]. He knows my worth too [as my manager]. I’m sure that he’s gonna go out and make sure that I get my worth.”

The timing for Harrison in the UFC is no longer perfect at this point and that started with UFC 269 in December 2021 before she hit the open market. Harrison’s former American Top Team teammate and former two-division titleholder Amanda Nunes was dethroned at bantamweight on the night, succumbing to a second-round rear-naked choke against Julianna Pena. After the loss, UFC CEO Dana White specifically highlighted how Harrison was one of the night’s biggest losers thanks to the result.

Pena remains a fixture atop the 135-pound weight class in UFC today despite having only fought once in a losing effort against Nunes in their rematch since. She’ll be left out of the upcoming vacant title fight between Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva at UFC 297 in January, but Harrison does believe “The Venezuelan Vixen” makes for a fun hypothetical fight across MMA promotions.

“I think that that would be a great fight,” Harrison said of Pena. “She’s not afraid to speak her mind. She talks a big talk. She thinks very highly of herself. I don’t know why but she does. So, I think that would be a great fight. But I’m not a free agent yet. The PFL and Ali I know are working on stuff. There is a Cyborg potential there. I’m not trying to stir the pot. I did that free agency thing two years ago. Holy s***, it’s exhausting.”

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Virna Jandiroba (19-3) vs. Loopy Godinez (12-3); UFC Fight Night, March 30

All interest in the Cyborg vs. Harrison fight was lost at the end of the 2022 PFL Championship. The Larissa Pacheco fight is perfect right now in all regards other than trash talk.

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