Double Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison makes her MMA debut on Thursday in a Professional Fighters League event in Chicago, live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.
Harrison faces Brittney Elkin (3-4) in a 155-pound bout. It marks Harrison’s first competition since she repeated as Olympic gold medalist in the 172-pound division at the 2016 Rio Games.
Harrison, the only U.S. Olympic judo gold medalist, announced in October 2016 that she joined the MMA promotion as a commentator and brand ambassador, but not necessarily a fighter. A year ago, Harrison said she would compete.
The comparisons to former judo training partner and Olympic bronze medalist Ronda Rousey have shadowed her for years.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time to fight,” Harrison, 27, said in April “First, it was more me. I just wanted to get my feet wet, get in there, see if I liked getting punched in the face. Now that I’ve established that I do, we’ve sort of been waiting for the PFL to get their stuff together. So, their stuff is together.”
Elkin, a jiu-jitsu specialist, hasn’t fought since a July 2017 loss. Harrison said in April that her first two planned opponents pulled out for reasons unknown to her.
“I don’t care who I fight,” Harrison said. “It’s tough because I’m 0-0 in MMA. So it’s not like I’m going to fight someone who’s 10-0. But I think it’s difficult when you have two Olympic gold medals behind your name. Like people are kind of like, are you really an amateur?”
Harrison, who has said she hopes to fight three times this year, said her goal is for everyone to know that she is the world’s best MMA fighter.
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