Two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison announced that she will make the jump to the world of mixed martial arts. The 26-year-old has signed a deal with World Series of Fighting where she will serve as a brand ambassador and commentator before making her MMA debut.
“I’ve been boxing and doing jiu-jitsu and all that, and the biggest thing for me, really, is that I miss competing,” Harrison told USA Today Sports. “I miss fighting on the highest stages of the world, and the World Series of Fighting really gave me a great opportunity.”
Harrison captured gold medals at 78 kg (roughly 172 pounds) at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic games in Judo and will immediately draw comparisons to former training partner Ronda Rousey, who made the leap to MMA after winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics and the first U.S. woman to medal in Judo.
And we all know how that turned out as Rousey helped usher women’s MMA into the UFC and became arguably the biggest crossover star in the promotion.
Although comparisons are expected, Harrison and Rousey are quite different. Harrison was a little hesitant with making the jump considering that she was unsure about being punched in the face. But after securing her second consecutive gold medal, it became obvious that her next move would be into mixed martial arts. As for whether or not she’ll be as successful as Rousey, only time will tell.
“A lot of times people like to compare me to Ronda,” Harrison said. “I’m my own person. I make my own decisions. I’ll do it in my own time.”
However, Harrison does have some star qualities as she carries an outgoing personality that helped her land a commentating job with WSOF while spending the next year training for her official debut. She’s keenly aware of the hype surrounding her eventual MMA debut.
It may surprise some that Harrison didn’t end up with the UFC considering her friendship with Rousey and how highly touted of a prospect she is. Either way, Harrison found that WSOF was the perfect home for her and she’ll make her debut as a commentator on a Dec. 31 show that will feature four title fights.
“I just want everyone to be excited and expect big things from me,” she said. “This is only the beginning. I’m excited for this new chapter. I’m excited to commentate. I’m excited to be a brand ambassador and help the World Series of Fighting grow their organization as well as help me grow myself as a fighter and a brand myself.”