Last month, one of the most discussed periods of free agency for an individual fighter came to an end. Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and back-to-back PFL women’s lightweight champion, won’t be fighting under the banner of a new promotion in 2022.
Instead, the Ohio native will look to secure a third straight piece of gold and $1 million check in this year’s PFL season. That’s after she signed what has been described as the most lucrative contract for a female MMA fighter in the sport’s history.
With the signing, a number of potentially exciting matchups have been put on hold, namely a clash with rival Cris Cyborg over in Bellator and a collision of former teammates in the UFC against featherweight queen Amanda Nunes.
Now, the woman who perhaps derailed a bigger push for Harrison vs. Nunes has spoken about the 31-year-old’s decision to stay put with a new multi-year deal.
Peña: Harrison Has Signed Her Life Away
While a clash with Nunes seemed most on the radar had Harrison put pen-to-paper on an agreement with MMA’s premier promotion, a feud with the bantamweight titleholder has certainly been blossoming.
Prior to UFC 269, where Peña shocked the world by dethroning Nunes, Harrison suggested her then-ATT teammate would “murder” the challenger. Even after that theory was emphatically proven wrong, the former judoka suggested the “Lioness” would dispatch “The Venezuelan Vixen” with ease nine times out of 10.
After then claiming it would only take her one arm to beat Peña herself, Harrison hinted she’d be open to dropping to 135 pounds to put her money where her mouth is. She later walked back that willingness, suggesting it was more in jest than a serious claim.
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Peña suggested Harrison’s decision to engage in verbal warfare derived from the fact she knew a return to PFL would mean she wouldn’t have to follow up her words in the Octagon.
“How easy it is? Talk about WWE wrestling, how easy is it to say, ‘I’ll beat Julianna with one arm tied behind my back,’ and then sign a (contract) to PFL right after the next day?” Peña said. “It’s easy to talk sh*t when you know nothing’s gonna happen from it. So, that’s my whole angle.
“It’s like, Kayla’s just running her mouth because she knows nothing’s ever gonna happen of it, you know?”
While Peña went on to encourage Harrison to make her money and do what’s best for her financially, she didn’t shy away from taking a shot at the lightweight by branding her PFL opponents as “tomato cans.”
“She just signed her life away to PFL, so best of luck with that, I hope it’s—make your career off of beating tomato cans. That’s great… Here’s the thing though, I understand it! Make your other milli. What does she make, $2 million with them? Make your money, girl! Do your thing,” concluded Peña.
Having decided on her immediate future, Harrison will now be preparing for the defense of her 2021 championship. The women’s lightweight season is set to get underway at PFL 3 on May 6. The matchups for the event are yet to be announced.
What do you make of Kayla Harrison’s decision to return to the PFL cage this year?