The path which led Taylor Guardado to the PFL lightweight championship on October 27 started with a conversation between her coaches and a short-notice opportunity. It had been over a year since Guardado competed, as she competed in the Invicta FC: Phoenix Series 3 in 2020, which was her first competition since 2011 as she focused on starting a family, a move that not many professional athletes would do.
Taylor Guardado was highly successful and well-regarded in her amateur career, her only loss came to UFC Hall Of Famer Ronda Rousey, but Guardado chose family over fighting in the middle of her young career. Although she was successful early, Guardado may just be in the prime of her career now in 2021, 10 years after she was turning heads as an amateur. Her dedication to her craft, her willingness to get back into the gym at Xtreme Couture, and a coaches’ conversation led to her entry into the 2021 PFL women’s lightweight tournament.
In an interview with MyMMANews, Taylor Guardado discussed how she ended up in the 2021 tournament, why she’s not feeding into the hype of facing Kayla Harrison, and what a win would mean to her in this championship.
Prior to the start of the 2021 PFL season, Guardado was provided with an opportunity to join the tournament and it was her coaches, along with PFL President, Ray Sefo, who is also a coach with Xtreme Couture urged her to take the open spot. Now that she’s one win away from $1 million and the PFL lightweight title, Guardado reflected back and said now she has to believe her coaches’ confidence in her.
“I mean I have to at this point. After my second fight they [coaches] pulled me into the gym like they always do if you come into the gym after you win, they congratulate you in front of the whole team and it’s nice. And Ray [Sefo] was there and he was like ‘I want you all to know that you have to be ready for opportunities, big opportunities can knock on your door at any time.’ He used me as an example, ‘Taylor wasn’t supposed to be in the tournament, she was a last-minute fill-in and she’s going to the finals.’ He preached about being ready, and I was, I was training all the time.
After three straight decision victories, which inclulded a last-minute opponent change in the semi-finals, Guardado now finds herself matched up against Kayla Harrison, the reigning champion in the division, as well as the biggest name under the PFL banner. While Harrison is undefeated in her career and while her resume speaks for itself, Taylor Guardado knows anyone can lose.
“She can backup everything that she’s said so far but when it comes down to it, anyone can lose and everyone’s beatable. I’m in the finals for a reason. I 100% believe that I’m the person who is going to beat her.”
Starting off with a push from her coaches, to being just one win away from a championship title and $1 million paycheck, Guardado still credits her coaches for instilling self-confidence in her skills, which have been on display all during the 2021 season.
“My coaches, they drilled into me ‘Hey, you have to know how really good you are, you have to stop doubting yourself and know what you’re capable of because a) you’ve made it to the f**king finals’ and they were like ‘you’ve won, you’ve very clearly won all of your fights, you need to start beliving in yourself.’ I don’t know what switched after this last fight but my confidence is pretty high right now and I think the work we’ve already putting and the work we’re going to be put in for this camp, it’s giving me a good head on my shoulders.”
After taking time away in the middle of her career to focus on her family, Guardado knows the potential benefits of winning $1 million, but winning a belt and adding to her legacy is just as important.
“When it comes down to it, obviously bills. I need to cover a bunch of bills with a million dollars but I mean overall I just want to make sure that my family is set up, and my son is set up for his life. For college and stuff like that. The money’s great but when it comes down to it, I’m also just chasing legacy. I think being the first person to dethrone Kayla [Harrison] would be pretty cool.”
With the opportunity of a lifetime in front of her, 10 years after she was setting the amateur circut on fire, Taylor Guardado says she would tell her younger-self to just keep going, because she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“I would probably just tell myself just to be happy and keep doing what she’s doing because I wouldn’t have changed any part of my journey. I met my husband, I got to take time off, I had my kid, I traveled a lot, I’ve always been training but I think I’m tenfold better than I was as an amateur. I’d tell her to keep doing what she’s doing and really enjoy her 20s.”
Taking advantage of a short-notice opportunity, Taylor Guardado combined self-confidence, skills, and a team of renowned coaches to lead her to the PFL lightweight championship. It will be no easy task facing Kayla Harrison, but a much larger bank account, a championship world title, and handing a great opponent her first loss, it all matters to her.
This is the road less traveled, not only for Guardado, not only for pro athletes, but for many people in the world. But for her, the timing is just right, and opportunity is right in front of her.
Mike Pendleton is a current contributor to MyMMANews, BJPenn.com, and TheScrap.Co while also hosting his “On The Mic” podcast and works as an Associate Producer on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation channel.
With a special passion for interviewing and talking to some of the very best around the fight game, you can read or listen to Mike’s work across his multiple outlets.
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