Kayla Harrison, PFL Championships

Photo by Douglas Geller

Q&A with Kayla Harrison and Anthony Rocco Martin ahead of the PFL Championships

Kayla Harrison, who will be part of the special event at the PFL Championship on New Years Eve, will also be a part of PFL Season 2’s women’s lightweight division.  I spoke with Harrison and her boyfriend and UFC fighter,  Anthony Rocco Martin, ahead of her fight.

Photo by Douglas Geller

Kayla, what was your biggest lesson from this year?

KH: “The most important thing for me and the thing I’m really trying to come to terms with is shedding my old skin, I’m not Kayla Harrison Olympic champion anymore, I’m Kayla Harrison 2-0 pro fighter. Realizing that and having confidence in that and not just thinking about my past has important for me and having confidence in my skill set inside the cage has been my biggest lesson.”

What do you want to take away from this fight other than a win since this year has been about growth for you?

“Moriel is a tough fighter, she has never been finished, all her fights have gone the distance and I’m looking forward to showing people I’m not just a judo player in a cage, I’m a well-rounded mixed martial artist. I want a KO, TKO, submission whatever it is but I want to show off my skill set and I want to finish the fight.”

Anthony Rocco Martin: “First round.”

KH: “Okay.”

Next year is the start of the women’s division in the PFL, you have a lot of pressure on you, is it satisfying that you’ve accomplished this so far?

KH: “I’m excited, I never thought in a million years thought, oh Kayla you’re going to win the Olympics and then you’re going to do it again and then you’re going to do mixed martial arts, then they’re going to create a division around you and then they’re going to pay you a million dollars. If you look at the trajectory of my life, I didn’t really plan this but I think success breeds success and when you believe in yourself this much and when you believe truly you have what it takes to accomplish something then all the pieces start to fall into place. And the PFL has believed in me from day 1. they want to create a women’s weight class, a 155-pound weight class which has never been done and they want to create a tournament for that which hasn’t been done. I’m all about making history, I’m all about closing the gender gap and making things more equal. So, I’m happy to be a part of it, I’m not afraid of it, I’m going to take it head on and I’m going to be a millionaire next year.”

Talk about how you’re able to use the PFL platform to move forward your charity initiatives forward:

KH: I’m not going to lie to you, one of the reasons I chose to do MMA is because it is such a big platform. The Olympics are a great thing but they only come around once every four years. It’s no secret that I was sexually abused by my first coach, I’ve written a book, I’ve started a foundation, I’ve veen speaking out for years now about this issue and my hope and my goal is that MMA and all the eyes that watch it and all the people around the world who are fans. This is my opportunity to try and change the world. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and what happened to me was terrible but I’ve got strong shoulders and I’m able to carry it and I’m able to hopefully make it so it’s not 1 in 10 or it’s not 1 in 6 or it’s 1 in 4, just one day at a time. So everyone go check out the book Fighting Back, Amazon, it’ll be at your house the next day!”

“They are super supportive of everything, they have the Fearless Foundation logo in the cage and they want to do a commercial for it and it’s in my contract that I get a 30 second commercial I just haven’t done it yet. They are very positive and very supportive of everything I want to try and accomplish in my career inside the cage and outside.”

: It’s been quite a year for Kayla, jumping into MMA, what is the thing that has jumped out the most to you about her this year?

AM: “The most is her willingness to learn, she wants to be the best in every area, she wants to be the best wrestler, best jiu jitsu, obviously she has the best judo, she wants to be the best striker. Every day she is looking for the best people, she doesn’t want to be carried in training, she wants the toughest guys and the toughest girls. Her expectations for herself are to be the best and I think she has the ability to be the best in the world and I think now she obviously needs to go out there and prove it to everyone.”

How has she grown since her last fight and how does this fight go?

AM: “Obviously, I think her confidence is growing in the sport and her ability to be a high-level striker and be confident on the feet. There is no girl in the world, if she gets them to the ground that she can’t finish. I don’t care how good they are, she is the best grappler in the world by far, not even close. She is head and shoulders above every girl I’ve ever seen her grapple with. This Mariela, she’s tough, she’s never been finished, she’s fought some of the top girls in the world and none of them have finisher her and I’ll guarantee Kayla finishes her in the first round.”

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Doug Geller