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Kayla Harrison returns to PFL after promotion matches Bellator contract offer

It looks like the next stage of the Judo Olympian’s MMA journey is going to look a whole lot like the previous one.

Kayla Harrison walks the red carpet at the 33rd Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner in 2018.
Kayla Harrison walks the red carpet at the 33rd Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner in 2018.
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

After months of speculation over just where free agent Kayla Harrison would land for the next stage of her MMA journey it turns out she’s not going anywhere at all. Following reports that PFL had initiated their matching rights to counter a Bellator offer for the two-time Judo Olympic gold medalist, Harrison herself confirmed that she had signed a new multi-year deal with the Professional Fighters League in an announcement on ESPN’s SportsCenter (transcript via MMA Fighting).

“I think there were a lot of contract negotiations, there were a lot of offers, many of them very lucrative,” Harrison said. “Ultimately, the PFL had the right to match any contract that I received and they stepped up in a big way and now I’m going to be staying with the PFL. I’m excited.

“I’ve talked to [PFL co-owner] Donn Davis last night and he made it very clear to me that the goals I have for myself, the way that I want to challenge myself is still going to be accomplished and the PFL supports me in that 100 percent. They’re not afraid to pay big money and bring over big name fighters to come over and challenge me.”

Harrison (12-0) first made her MMA debut back in 2018, running out to a 7-0 unbeaten record on her way to her first PFL tournament title. Following the promotion’s 2020 hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrison racked up another four stoppage wins in 2021, netting another lightweight crown and her second million-dollar payday in the process.

The news of Harrison’s new contract comes just in time for the start of the PFL 2022 season, with the first event planned for April. The promotion did manage to make at least one other solid addition to their women’s lightweight division in this off-season, with the announcement that they had come to a deal with former Bellator champion Julia Budd. And with the news that former UFC champ Cris Cyborg is nearing the end of her own Bellator deal it may be that Davis will have a real opportunity to make good on his promise to Harrison of bringing in top competition in the not too distant future.