Double Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison won her MMA debut with an arm-bar submission, using former roommate Ronda Rousey‘s signature move for a first-round submission at a Professional Fighters League event in Chicago on Thursday night.
“I was wicked nervous,” the Massachusetts native said. “This is all so new. No one has ever locked me in a cage and said, go kill someone. … I can’t wait until the next one.”
Harrison, in her first competition since the Rio Games, beat Brittney Elkin (3-5) after 3 minutes, 18 seconds, of the five-minute first round. Harrison dominated from the start, took Elkin down to the mat after 30 seconds, landed a series of punches and eventually rolled Elkin into the arm bar.
Harrison 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 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.”
Harrison that her first two planned opponents pulled out for reasons unknown to her.
“I don’t care who I fight,” Harrison said in April. “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.
“My coaches keep calling me an embryo,” Harrison told media after Thursday’s debut. “It’s true. I’m an embryo. I’m a baby in this thing.”
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