Thursday, July 25, 2024

Kayla Harrison ready to get back to work as she awaits potential UFC women’s bantamweight title shot

Kayla Harrison is trusting the process. Harrison is champing at the bit to fight in the Octagon, but her next move is unclear with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Raquel Pennington vs. Julianna Pena seemingly on the horizon.

Pennington and Pena told multiple reporters they were slated to fight each other at UFC 307 in Salt Lake City on Oct. 5 while walking the UFC Hall of Fame red carpet on June 27. It’s a reasonable booking considering Pena’s status as a former champion, her No. 1 standing in the UFC’s official women’s bantamweight rankings and the division’s shallow pool of contenders.

But there seems to be greater fan interest in seeing Harrison (No. 4), an Olympic gold medalist judoka and two-time PFL champion, fight for the title. Harrison debuted at UFC 300 on April 13, dominating former UFC and boxing champion Holly Holm en route to a second-round submission. Harrison previously expressed her desire to fight Pena for the interim title. The UFC opted to go a different direction but Harrison still has faith in UFC brass.

“I’m still the new kid on the block and I’m a team player,” Harrison told CBS Sports during UFC International Fight Week. “I believe in the UFC top brass. I believe that Hunter [Campbell], Sean [Shelby], Mick [Maynard] and Dana [White] have a plan. If I need to smash another skull before I get my belt, so be it.”

Harrison has options, including serving as backup for UFC 307 or fighting another contender like Ketlen Vieira or Macy Chiasson. Whatever the case, Harrison wants to fight as soon as possible.

“I’m ready,” Harrison said. “I’ve been having a little bit too much fun. It’s time to lock it up. My birthday is next week so I told myself when I get back from Vegas, it’s time to lock it up.”

A potential showdown with Amanda Nunes is arguably a bigger box-office attraction and legacy fight than the title shot. Nunes retired after defeating Pena at UFC 289 in June 2023, vacating her women’s featherweight and bantamweight titles. Nunes teased interest in fighting Harrison and rumors swirled of booking the fight after Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler was scrapped from UFC 303. Harrison reaffirmed that she would have accepted the short-notice fight but said the UFC never approached her.

Check out the full interview with Kayla Harrison below.

“I said yes but Amanda has been retired,” Harrison said. “She’d need to get back into the drug testing pool. There is a bunch of stuff that needs to go into play for that to happen. I don’t know if either one of us could have made weight.

“When you’re the best, you’re the best. It doesn’t matter.”

Harrison’s manager Ali Abdelaziz recently told Submission Radio that Nunes retired because she feared Harrison. The Olympic gold medalist isn’t as audacious as her manager but is supremely confident in her chances against who many consider to be the greatest women’s MMA fighter.

“I’m not going to be as brash or bold as Ali and make assumptions about other fighters,” Harrison said. “I think Amanda had her own reasons for retiring and I’m not going to speculate on what those were. But I do believe that I’m the best in the world and time will tell all.”

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