It’s easy to forget how good Larissa Pacheco is, but this PFL season has been the reminder many people needed and at the PFL Championships on New Year’s Eve at the mecca of sports, Madison Square Garden, she has the chance to prove she is great. But she will have to do so against an opponent in Kayla Harrison who has already defeated her and is the PFL’s biggest star.
To get to this point, in her career, Pacheco has not only defeated tough competition like Irene Aldana and Sarah Kaufman, she has also overcome tremendous odds. Born with not much money in Brazil, Pacheco never imagined she’d have the chance to pursue her dream at the mecca of all sports nor for the opportunity to win a life changing amount of money.
“It’s a dream come true, never in a million years I would’ve thought this would happen to me, I have the opportunity to fight for a great event, a great platform and a great location at Madison Square Garden and it bumps my career up to new heights.”
“Never real cross my mind that this money would be attainable by me. I’m going to seize the opportunity. But what gets me here is I’d be fighting the same way, I’d be reacting the same way if it I’d be taking the opportunity as seriously if it was a $10,000 prize. I do this for the love of the sport, not necessarily the love of money or love of the check.”
If she is successful and able to defeat Harrison, Pacheco will finally be able to live in a home she can call her own, and give back to the people who have always done so much for her.
“It changes everything, right now I don’t have my own house, neither does my mom. So being able to offer that kind of comfort to myself and primary her, really, really moves me. Also being able to provide comfort to my grandparents who allowed me to live a comfortable life as a child growing up, these are some of the things that motivates me.”
With so much on the line, there would seem to be an insurmountable amount of pressure, but Pacheco says, it doesn’t come from her family or her coaches and that the money though significant, is only equal to making her name in the sport she loves.
“There is absolutely no pressure from home, no pressure from my coaches.”
“I feel like these two are one and the same, for me at least, I can’t pinpoint one that is of more importance. But the title is ultimately the pinnacle of my career and the culmination of all the hard work over the x amount of years I’ve been competing in. That is something I would take a lot of pride in.”
Though Pacheco has a longer history in the sport of MMA, including facing the likes of former UFC champions Jessica Andrade and Germaine de Randamie, as well as a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, she believes that she is being underestimated because this season has been made out to be the Kayla show. And because of that, she believes her victory will taste that much sweeter.
“The fact that it’s the Kayla show and there is this whole media machine behind her just gives me this extra sweet taste in the end of it all to be able to rain on this big parade that is being put on for her. Like I said, I’m here for myself, I don’t owe this to anybody, I’m extremely young and vey experienced and I have nothing to prove to anyone.”
As previously mentioned, the two combatants have fought before. Harrison won a dominant decision and showed why there is so much hype associated with her. However, that was several months ago and Pacheco believes that the version Harrison will face on New Year’s Eve, is a completely different fighter.
“I think the advantage plays on my side simply because when we first fought, not only did she undermine me, but I was coming off a huge layoff. I hadn’t competed in over a year and Kayla was out there with ATT and a great crew and everything else. Here I am now, in the best shape of my career, with momentum having a steady pace of competition. I feel the Larissa she will see is different from the Larissa she saw months ago.”
Much of the story that was made about the fight was about how Harrison handled it afterwards. Despite the dominant victory she was in tears because she didn’t get the finish. With the rematch happening, much of the prefight build up has been about Harrison’s reaction and her drive to finish Pacheco this time around. But Pacheco isn’t interested in how Harrison deals with her issues, just how she handles her own.
“To be quite honest I thought it was an imbecile way to do with things. But that’s just me, I respect that people have different ways to deal with different situations. People have different ways to take wins and losses. So that’s her way, sure, keep at it but it’s not how I deal with it.”
And she doesn’t plan on dealing with a loss to Harrison again. In fact, Pacheco sees herself finishing the Olympian.
“With Kayla I see the fight starting standing and Kayla getting frustrated and trying to take me down. I am going to stuff those takedowns and work my through until I get a finish, I know I’m going to get a finish.”
Pacheco vs. Harrison takes place on New Years Eve at Madison Square Garden. The fights will start at 7 pm EST.