The Professional Fighters League will add a new weight class to its regular season, playoff format in 2019 -- and it will feature one of the most promising prospects in mixed martial arts.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison (2-0) has signed an exclusive deal with the PFL that will see her compete in a 155-pound division next year. The PFL is currently in the midst of its inaugural season, which consisted of 72 male fighters competing for a $10 million prize pool.
In 2019, that business model will include a 155-pound women's division. The PFL will be the only major North American promotion to offer that weight class.
"We're super excited to continue working with Kayla," said PFL president Carlos Silva. "We're going to go ahead and add a seventh weight division to our format. It's going to operate the same as the men's divisions have in 2018. We thought it was a smart weight for some of these women to compete at."
Harrison, 28, made her MMA debut with the PFL in June. Although the promotion did not offer a full female season in 2018, it oversaw both of Harrison's MMA fights as special attractions. She recorded finishes in both fights.
"PFL has believed in me from Day 1," Harrison told ESPN. "They're doing amazing things with the sport. They're creating the first 155-pound female weight class in MMA, and establishing that female fighters will have the same opportunities at winning prize money as male fighters."
Both Silva and Harrison said they are confident PFL will find talent to fill a 12-woman roster. Up to this point in the sport's history, heavier female weight classes have been relatively thin.
"I had always assumed they would want me to go down in weight, but the owners actually approached me and said, 'Listen, we want you healthy and strong,'" Harrison said. "I think there are girls out there who want to fight, and this sends a positive message to young girls all over the world. I don't believe in cutting weight. There's no reason for it."
Harrison, who trains out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, has repeatedly said she wants to be considered the best fighter in the world -- and in order to do that, she'll have to beat the UFC's current 145-pound champion Cris 'Cyborg' Justino (20-1).
Justino, 33, is expected to become a free agent in 2019, and Harrison believes there will be an opportunity to face the Brazilian at some point.
"I think next year will give me a lot of time to grow and change," Harrison said. "By the end of next year, I'll be 8-0, undefeated through a regular season and playoffs. I think PFL will have a great opportunity to say to Cyborg, 'Hey, why don't you come over here?' We'll have ourselves a real exciting tournament."