Reigning Olympic champ Evan Lysacek stopped by the set of TODAY earlier this week to discuss his goal of becoming the first American man since Dick Button in 1952 to win back-to-back Olympic gold, and to talk about his stiffest competition, newly crowned U.S. champ, Max Aaron.
Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.
“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”
Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.
Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.
Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.
To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.
Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.
Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.
Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.
“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”
Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.
Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.
“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.Follow @nzaccardi
U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.
Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.
The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.
USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”
“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.Follow @nzaccardi