PFL’s Donn Davis: Cris Cyborg vs. Larissa Pacheco will ‘happen first’ before Kayla Harrison fight

Kayla Harrison obviously wants a shot at Bellator champion Cris Cyborg, but it appears she’ll have to defer to Larissa Pacheco before that bout can potentially happen.

In the aftermath of the 2023 PFL World Championship card on Friday, company founder Donn Davis addressed the growing buzz about Harrison vs. Cyborg now that both fighters are finally competing under the same umbrella. Davis previously teased his own desire to book the fight after attempting prior to the PFL acquiring Bellator from Paramount.

Now the matchup might be closer than ever before, but Davis pumped the brakes on any bout agreements being issued, especially after Pacheco claimed the PFL featherweight title with her win in the 2023 season tournament.

“It’s champ versus champ,” Davis confirmed at the PFL post-fight press conference. “Larissa’s earned thatm but then will Cris fight Kayla in 2024? One-hundred percent, that is going to happen. Cris will have two fights in 2024. Kayla will have two fights in 2024. One of those will be Cris against Kayla, but we think that Larissa’s earned that.

“Once again, you have to give them champ versus champ. Cris is the champ of Bellator, Larissa’s the champ here, so you’ve got see that fight happen first, and then coming out of that, you’ll see Cris Cyborg against Kayla Harrison as the next fight in 2024.”

Pacheco defeated Harrison to cap off the 2022 PFL season, handing the two-time Olympic gold medalist the first loss of her career and becoming PFL lightweight champion.

In 2023, the PFL introduced its 145-pound weight class, however Harrison ultimately hadn’t competed again until her win over UFC veteran Aspen Ladd on Friday.

Meanwhile, Pacheco continued running roughshod over her competition, becoming the first ever two-division champion in PFL history after winning the featherweight finals. That victory puts her in line for the champion vs. champion fight with Cyborg, who currently holds the 145-pound title in Bellator.

But just because that’s the fight the PFL wants, doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen.

Cyborg is currently preparing for a boxing match in January and still hasn’t sat down to speak with PFL officials about her future. She did ink a lucrative multi-fight contract extension with Bellator in 2023 that obviously now ties her to the PFL following the sale of the company.

Davis can’t say for certain what Cyborg will choose to do, but he believes in the long run, she’ll want to return to MMA and face the best competition available to her. Without a doubt, Davis believes that will pit Cyborg against Pacheco and Harrison in 2024.

“I think she signed a big contract,” Davis said of Cyborg’s future. “I think she wants to add to her legacy. I don’t think she needs to do anything to earn her legacy. Her record speaks for itself. She’s one of two, three, or four, the best to have ever done it in the female MMA community, but I think she’d love the opportunity.

“We have two of the greatest fighters in the world in Kayla and Larissa. … Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Cyborg already drawing interest from Pacheco and Harrison likely ends Bellator contender Leah McCourt’s hopes of still getting a title shot any time soon after she earned that opportunity with a win over UFC veteran Sara McMann in her last outing.

After announcing plans to promote a champions versus champions card in early 2024, Davis said the same rule will apply to everyone — including new PFL heavyweight champion Renan Ferreira after he called out Francis Ngannou following his win on Friday. While that option may be available to him in the future, Ferreira will likely draw Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader for his next fight.

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