The hottest free agent in MMA has chosen her home for 2022. And it's the same as her previous home.
Kayla Harrison, a two-time Olympic judo champion, has re-signed with PFL, the promotion announced Tuesday. Bellator made her a lucrative offer earlier this year, but PFL had the right to match any offer and did so, sources told ESPN. In a news release, PFL stated that it was a multiyear contract. Harrison is a two-time PFL women's lightweight champion and will look to three-peat this year as part of the promotion's season structure.
"Ultimately, the PFL had the right to match any contract I received," Harrison said Tuesday on SportsCenter. "They stepped up in a big way."
ESPN has Harrison tied for No. 7 on its women's MMA pound-for-pound list. She has finished her past five fights and 10 of her 12 victories. Harrison's decision -- and seeing where she would end up -- was highly anticipated by fans and promotions.
Sources said that the UFC made an offer but that it wasn't in the same ballpark as the ones tendered by PFL and Bellator. At one point in the process, sources said, Harrison was fully expecting to sign with Bellator and fight Cris Cyborg as early as next month. But PFL ended up matching the Bellator offer in late February.
Harrison said that she is aware of criticisms that she has yet to fight the best female fighters in the world. Cyborg and other top-tier fighters near her weight class, such as UFC featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, are not in PFL, where Harrison has dominated in a thin division. PFL has added former Bellator women's featherweight champion Julia Budd for the 2022 season, and Budd would represent the biggest test to date for Harrison.
"On one hand, I don't disagree with [the criticisms]," Harrison said. "I get it. They want to see me fight the top dogs. I want to fight the top dogs. I'm not running from anybody, I'm not hiding from anybody. I'm more than happy to fight anyone, anywhere, at any time. I'm ready to be the greatest."
The plan, Harrison said, is to fight in PFL's women's lightweight season this year and then afterward take a superfight against a big-name opponent.
"The PFL has ensured me and promised me that they don't care if they have to cross-promote, co-promote," Harrison said. "They don't care if it's on Planet Earth or Planet Pluto. They want to make that fight happen just as much as I do."
In a news release, PFL CEO Peter Murray said PFL would be launching a pay-per-view superfight division, in which Harrison will likely compete at some juncture.
"It is a privilege to announce the PFL has signed the most dominant MMA fighter in the world, Kayla Harrison, to a new multi-year agreement," Murray said.
Harrison (12-0) beat Taylor Guardado via second-round submission to win her second PFL women's lightweight title last October. The fighter from Ohio, who lives and trains in Florida at American Top Team, has fought in PFL since her MMA debut in June 2018, with one fight during that span with Invicta FC. Harrison, 31, has said her goal is to become the greatest women's MMA fighter of all time.