Middletown's Kayla Harrison making big career move

Jan. 24—Kayla Harrison is coming to the UFC.

UFC president Dana White announced Tuesday night the Middletown native will make her debut in the world's top mixed-martial arts promotion April 13 on the card for UFC 300 in Nevada.

She will fight former UFC Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm.

"Holly Holm is one of the baddest women to ever compete in combat sports — ever," White said in a video posted to social media. "She's fought all the nastiest women in the world in boxing and in MMA, except for one. Holly will be taking on the only person in US history to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in judo. The UFC has officially signed Kayla Harrison."

Harrison, 33, won Olympic gold in 2012 and '16 before making the move to professional MMA.

She began in the World Series of Fighting and won her first 15 professional matches, including two championships in the lightweight division, before an upset decision loss to Larissa Pacheco in the 2022 PFL Lightweight Tournament Final.

"Her takedowns, her ground and pound are nasty, and this will be the first time she will be competing at bantamweight," White said.

Harrison most recently fought last November, a unanimous decision win over Aspen Ladd.

That was fought at a catchweight of 150 pounds, so Harrison may face a significant weight cut for bantamweight (135).

Holm, 42, is 15-6 in MMA and famously became the first person to defeat champion Ronda Rousey in 2015 when Rousey was the preeminent female fighting persona.

Prior to joining the UFC, Holm was an accomplished boxer who won world titles in multiple weight classes and was named Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year twice.

She was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2022.

Harrison is 11th in MMAJunkie's world pound for pound women's rankings while Holm is No. 6 among bantamweights.