EXCLUSIVE. U.S. Olympic legend Kayla Harrison – who won gold in judo in ’12 and ’16 – is finally making her MMA debut this week … and says she’s ready to wreck shop.
Kayla is a beast – and she tells TMZ Sports it was hard to even lock down an opponent because people are scared to fight her.
The good news … Brittney Elkin has stepped up and will fight Kayla at the PFL event in Chicago on Thursday, and Kayla tells us she can’t wait to scrap.
“I have 500 judo matches under my belt,” Kayla said … “I have some experience – just not with a locked cage behind me.”
How will she handle taking a live punch to the face for the first time?
“I’m kind of a bull. It’s gonna take a lot more than 1 punch to take me down.”
2-Time Olympic Judo Champ Kayla Harrison preps for MMA debut
CHICAGO – She’s a champion twice over, but Kayla Harrison is a little anxious about Thursday night.
Harrison is already a legend in the Judo world, becoming the first American ever to win Olympic gold in the sport.
Now, she’s making the jump to MMA, joining the Professional Fighters League in its inaugural season.
“It’s a different sport. In Judo, you compete all the time. I compete 15 times a year sometimes. You fight all the same girls over and over and over again. You don’t just train for one person. For me, this is different. I’ve been training for one girl for the last four or five months. She’s the only person I have to worry about. It’s just me and her. There’s no semifinals. There’s no first round. You get a bye to the finals. This is it. All in one match, all in one night.”
Opposite Harrison and Brittney Elkin on the fight card, are guys like ‘Ill’ Will Brooks, a graduate of Warren Township High School – all vying for a million dollar prize at the end of the year.
The PFL format sports a seven-match regular season, where fighters try to accumulate enough points to qualify for the postseason and eventually the ultimate championship bout that pays $1 million to each weight class winner.
Thursday night marks the second stop on the PFL tour with tickets still available for fight night at the Chicago Theatre.
Are you ready world? pic.twitter.com/WSWcsafn9R
— Kayla Harrison (@Judo_Kayla) May 1, 2018
Report: Olympic gold medalist Harrison to face Elkin in MMA debut at PFL 2
Two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison knows her first opponent in MMA. Harrison will debut in the sport against Brittney Elkin in the Professional Fighters League’s second show on June 21 in Chicago, reports MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani.
Harrison announced she would debut with the PFL last month.
Though Harrison has the ability to make the bantamweight limit of 145 lbs, the fight is expected to take place at 155 lbs to make the 27-year-old’s transition to the sport easier.
Harrison is the United States’ first Olympic gold-medal winner in judo, claiming her first piece of hardware at the 2012 games in London and another top prize at the 2016 games in Rio.
Since leaving judo in 2016, she has been training for MMA and recently joined the American Top Team gym in Florida.
Elkin is coming off a loss to Amanda Bell last July in Bellator and is 2-2 over her last four fights.
The June 21 PFL card will be headlined by a lightweight bout between former Bellator champion Will Brooks and Luiz Firmino.
Regular season action in ChiTown! Catch the two-time Olympic Gold medalist @Judo_Kayla ‘s MMA debut & the clash between @JRBuscapeMMA and Chicago native @illwavybrooks86 on 6/21 @chicagotheater. Presale opens TODAY 5/2 Use code: PRE25 for 25% off on tickets over $40 pic.twitter.com/XcpQUTFIPX
— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) May 2, 2018
2-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison Set for MMA Debut on July 21
Kayla Harrison, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist in judo, is set to make her MMA debut in July at Professional Fighters League 2 in Chicago.
Harrison signed with World Series of Fighting, now PFL, in late 2016.
Per the release, Harrison said, “It has been a long road preparing to transition to MMA and I can’t wait to show people just how much I am capable of. It is always my goal to be the best at whatever I do and MMA is no exception.”
Harrison’s debut is being touted as a showcase bout and will not be a part of PFL’s 2018 season.
The anticipation for Harrison’s debut stems largely from the giant success of Ronda Rousey.
Harrison was Rousey’s training partner for the 2008 Beijing Games, but she far surpassed Rousey’s judo credentials when she became the first American woman to win gold in 2012 before repeating in Rio in 2016.
Rousey’s trailblazing path in MMA laid the foundation for Harrison’s foray into the cage for life after judo.