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Online Gambling USA / Olympic medalist Kayla Harrison joins UFC, set for debut against Holly Holm

Olympic medalist Kayla Harrison joins UFC, set for debut against Holly Holm

Publish Date: 27/01/2024
Fact checked by: Josh Schwartz

Left: Kayla Harrison, Right: Holly Holm, tags: olympic gold debut ufc - CC

Olympic gold medalist and world champion judoka Kayla Harrison has recently signed with the UFC. The 33-year-old is now slated to make her promotional debut against former UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm at the UFC 300 next April.

An announcement was made by CEO Dana White on Tuesday, who also confirmed the Harrison vs. Holm bout at 135 pounds. Dana introduced Harrison as “the only person in US history to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals” and welcomed her addition to the UFC with an octagon debut in two months.

“It’s been an amazing journey to reach this point, and I’m grateful for every step along the path,” Harrison wrote in an Instagram post. “The highs and lows have all shaped me and made me an even better version of myself. God’s timing is perfect, and I am sure of one thing: My time is now.”

According to her manager, Ali Abdelaziz, Harrison has also actively tested weight-cutting in preparation for the UFC deal. She seemed to be satisfied with the outcome, as reported by ESPN.

“We’re extremely grateful for Kayla’s amazing career in the PFL,” Abdelaziz said. “She became the fighter she is now with their support. We are nothing but grateful to them and are excited to start a new chapter in the UFC.”

Weight-class shift

Harrison, now-former Professional Fighters League (PFL) featherweight superstar, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo at 78 kilograms or approximately 171 pounds. Previously, she made her professional debut with PFL in 2018 and dominated the PFL women’s lightweight tournament for the next five years, primarily competing at 155 pounds.

Her accolades at the time included clinching the $1 million prize in 2019 and 2021, but she suffered her only pro defeat to Brazil’s Larissa Pacheco in the 2022 finals. Shortly after, Harrison took a hiatus from the PFL due to personal reasons and a change in mindset.

In 2021, Harrison engaged with the UFC as a free agent in late 2021 under different circumstances. At the time, she was training at American Top Team in Florida. Despite her reluctance to cut significant weight, limited options at 145 and 155 pounds led her to explore the UFC, which had yet to establish a 155-pound division.

Harrison’s UFC signing was a surprise, especially with many expecting her to face Bellator women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. Despite expectations, Harrison is moving down a weight class, competing 20 pounds lighter than her entire career.

Facing Harrison will be 42-year-old Holm, known for her 2015 knockout upset of Ronda Rousey. With a 4-1 record in her last five fights, her only loss was a disputed split decision to Ketlen Vieira. Holm holds two victories over the newly crowned bantamweight champion, Raquel Pennington, in 2015 and 2020.

Recently, Holm has struggled in title bouts, losing all four attempts since. Her recent submission loss to Mayra Bueno Silva in July was overturned to a no contest due to Silva’s banned substance violation.

As two of the most accomplished athletes in women’s combat sports, Holm and Harrison are set to clash at UFC 300. Scheduled for April 13 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the UFC event card will feature several high-profile matchups.

Aside from the Harrison vs Holm matchup, there will be a women’s strawweight title fight between Zhang Weili and Yan Xiaonan, as well as Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway in lightweight. As of now, the main event is yet to be unveiled.

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