Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Aspen Ladd Thinks UFC Featherweight Division Needs Kayla Harrison

Aspen Ladd believes the UFC must sign dominant PFL star Kayla Harrison in order to bring more “substance” to the lacklustre women’s featherweight division.

Ladd’s planned return to MMA’s biggest stage hasn’t gone to plan in 2021 so far. The #3-ranked women’s bantamweight was initially scheduled to face Macy Chiasson at UFC Vegas 32 in July. Following a late an injury to her opponent, Ladd’s comeback was delayed.

After the matchup was kept together, the pair were set to collide at UFC Vegas 38 earlier this month. In a situation we’ve previously seen in her career, Ladd experienced issues with the weight cut. Despite officially coming in one pound over the limit, the 26-year-old’s state on the scale was enough for the fight to be pulled yet again.

As many had called for, Ladd will now be making the move up to 145 pounds. After Holly Holm withdrew from her scheduled main event bout with Norma Dumont, Ladd has stepped up and will look to secure a meeting with Amanda Nunes in a different weight class than she’d originally planned.

Ahead of her featherweight debut, Ladd spoke with TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter. The Californian admitted that she sees less opportunities for herself at 145 pounds. However, she knows the move is necessary for her career, and is hoping the signing of one star currently outside of the promotion will breathe life into the weight class.

“Well, that’s part of the problem. Yes, it’s the same woman at the top of all heaps, but there’s so many less opportunities to fight at 145 right now. We’ll see in like a year, year and a half, because I highly expect for them to bring Kayla [Harrison] and try to start building the division. But basically, it’s for opportunity. Because I’d like to fight more. And in order to do that, I can’t do ‘35 all that often. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of time, and it’s gotta be exact. ‘45, I can, as you see, take on a 10-day-notice fight.”

When asked if the future of the women’s featherweight division depends on the signing of Harrison, Ladd suggested it would progress the division to more than just Amanda Nunes’ playground.

“Absolutely. They just haven’t put the time or the effort into it. Right now, it’s kinda just here for Amanda, (when) she wants to fight.”

Harrison is scheduled to fight Taylor Guardado in the final of the PFL Women’s Lightweight Tournament on October 27. Following that, Ladd expects the two-time Olympic gold medalist to test herself in the UFC.

“They need stars. They need, basically, more substance. And Kayla’s the obvious answer, and I think they’ve been angling for her for a while. And her last fight in PFL’s coming up, so I fully expect her to be signed and then them to start building the 145 division.”

In recent years, Harrison has been one of the most dominant women in MMA. Since making her debut in 2018, the 31-year-old has built a perfect 11-0 professional record that includes five knockouts and four submissions. Having won the 2019 PFL Women’s Lightweight Championship, Harrison is looking to replicate the $1 million success later this month.

While her future isn’t set in stone, Harrison previously suggested the PFL would have to significantly improve their roster or offer her life-changing money in order to keep her beyond this year. With that in mind, Dana White will likely be licking his lips at the prospect of bringing the Ohio native to the UFC.

Would you like to see Kayla Harrison sign with the UFC at the culmination of this year’s PFL season?