Kayla Harrison was dejected, with her head down and tears in her eyes. For the moment, one would never have thought that he had just raised his hand in victory.
However, that was the scene in May when the two-time judo Olympic gold medalist distanced himself for the first time in his fledgling mixed martial arts career. And the 29-year-old did not like anything.
"I was disappointed not to have finished it," Harrison told Sporting News about his unanimous decision victory at the opening of the 2019 PFL season over Larissa Pacheco. “I want to go out to instill my will in a dominant way, I want to get my TKO, KO or submission and that was the first time I made a decision.
"I just stay at a higher level." "I felt I could have done better, I should have done better and I didn't." That's why I was upset. "
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Harrison channeled that disappointment by going through Morgan Frier in July and Bobbi Jo Dalziel in October, both through first-round submission, to hit his place in the PFL championship. There, he will face Pacheco from Brazil once again, this time with the women's lightweight title and $ 1 million at stake. Everything will take place at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve.
This time, Harrison wants the end that eluded her at her initial meeting and the large number of awards that accompany her.
"Since then, I have grown tremendously as a fighter," Harrison said. "I have grown tremendously as a person. I am excited to show the world the Kayla Harrison that I have become."
Harrison has received help on that trip by training with Amanda Nunes, the UFC cock and featherweight champion who is widely regarded as the best women's MMA fighter of all time.
In a recent "Road to the PFL Championship,quot; video, Nunes detailed why there is no reason why Harrison should not walk around 2020 with the women's lightweight title and $ 1 million in tow.
"We trained together and she came to the American Top Team and evolved a lot," says Nunes in the PFL clip. “She comes from judo. Over here, she can arm him with wrestling, jujitsu, hit, make a good strategy and become an MMA fighter. She will definitely be the next PFL champion. "
That said, Pacheco feels, like Harrison, that he could not train properly for his first fight, just one day in advance. Harrison heard Pacheco promising to knock her out in the PFL championship, and that is only fueling the desire of the American Olympic hero to win much more.
"I want to win dominant," Harrison said. “I want to start the New Year with a bang, so to speak. I'm going to break her and she's going to break."
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Using New Year's Eve as a springboard to get more greatness from MMA in 2020 and beyond seems like the perfect scenario for Harrison.
"It would be a magical moment. It's the end of a decade. It would be the final rebirth of myself," Harrison said, explaining what it would mean for his MMA career. "I was an Olympic athlete for so long and now I am a fighter and I will finally have my first world title. It is a first step on a very long journey towards bigger and better things."
Like his American Top Team teammate, Nunes, Harrison has expressed interest in a super fight with the female boxing sensation Claressa Shields. That could be one of Harrison's "biggest and best things,quot; to keep an eye on the line.
"Claressa and I go back," Harrison said of his two-time Olympic gold medalist at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games. "We both agreed that if it is a money fight, of course we will fight each other."
Any scenario of this type should wait for the moment. Right now, it's about Harrison's first important MMA milestone coming true.
"I've waited long enough and I'm ready to go in and do what I do," he said. "I want to go down as one of the best that has done it."