clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ronda Rousey's former Judo teammate and Olympic Gold Medalist moving to MMA after 2016 Rio Games?

New, 48 comments

Kayla Harrison, Ronda Rousey's former teammate and the first American Olympic Gold Medalist in Judo, ponders a future move to Mixed Martial Arts.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Back when Ronda Rousey won her bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, one of her teammates was a then 18-year-old Kayla Harrison. The United States didn't qualify at Harrison's weight class at that time, so she served as a primary training partner to the future UFC champion during their 'Rocky style' camps for the Olympics.

"I actually miss it," Harrison told NBC Sports as she spoke about Rousey. "I miss having a girl to train with who hates to lose as much as me."

"Kayla very much cared — practice, competition, she had that deep caring about how she did," Rousey said. "What really made her stand out the most was how important it was to her, to see how passionate she was about it."

After having 'catfights everyday' in the dojo, Rousey moved to MMA in 2010, while Harrison continued her Judo career. She won the World Judo Championships at the same year, and in 2012, she went on to be the first American, male or female, to win Olympic gold in Judo.

She's the best in the world at what she does, and is currently training for the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil.

Now 24-years-old, Kayla is the same age as when Rousey made her pro MMA debut. According to her, she also is thinking about following in her footsteps.

"We go back and forth. It’s pretty tempting at times. Who doesn’t want to be famous? Who doesn’t want to be rich? Who doesn’t yearn for all of those things at some point in their life?"

"Who knows, maybe after Rio, [MMA] is what I’ll want to do."

With the current state of Women's MMA, a top level athlete and Judoka like Harrison could conceivably only take a few fights before making an impact, but there could be a few hurdles before that can even happen. For one, she mentions that she isn't comfortable with the entertainment factor in Mixed Martial Arts.

"I just don’t know if it’s for me, quite honestly. I’m not as confident as Ronda in front of the media. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but I’m not a showboater. I don’t think I would be very good at putting on a show or talking trash."

That trait obviously isn't as big a requirement in MMA than actually winning fights, and Rousey grew into that aspect as she started tearing through the amateur and regional circuits.

Another potential issue is her weight class. Harrison competed from 63 kg (138 lbs) to as high as 78 kg (172 lbs) in Judo, meaning that for her to go to MMA, she will likely have to cut down to the 145 lb weight class.

It may sound like a tough cut, but weight cutting in the two sports is completely different, and Rousey made a similar drop from 155 lbs in Judo to 135 lbs in the UFC. The 145 lb division also isn't available in the UFC today, but as you may know, a lot can happen in this sport in the span of two years.

According to Harrison, apart from keeping in touch with Rousey, the UFC champ also gave her contacts in MMA if she ever decided to make that switch.