In world athletic circles, Kayla Harrison carries weight. She was the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in judo at the 2012 London Games. She repeated the feat in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
In MMA cages, Harrison comes with question marks, three fights worth of experience (all wins) and plenty of attention.
Make that four wins now as Harrison defeated Larissa Pacheco in the Professional Fighters League’s first event of their second season on Thursday at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. Harrison won via unanimous decision, 30-25, 30-27, 30-27. It was her first career decision victory and just the second time she’s been out of the first round.
Still, she didn’t look too happy after the dominant win.
“I think people underestimate my desire to be the best and to be perfect,” Harrison said. “I’m not just one of those people who says it. I’m not one of those people who says, ‘Oh, I want to be world champion.’ No, I want to go out and I want to dominate and I want to instill my will. I want people to beg to never have to fight me again. When I feel like I fall short of that, I’m not happy.”
Harrison earned three points in the women’s lightweight standings, tied for second place with two others. Sarah Kaufman is in first place with six points after her first-round submission of Morgan Frier.
Harrison, 28, dominated Pacheco in the first round, getting her down around the three-minute mark and keeping her there the entire time. Pacheco (11-3) showed her experience and jiu-jitsu skill to avoid taking too much damage and defended against Harrison’s submission attempts. Harrison had a rear naked choke attempt, but the round ended before she could sink in the submission.
“I just have to build that confidence,” Harrison said. “I have to go out there and really truly believe that no one deserves to be in the cage with me. That comes from experience, it comes from mat time, it comes from trusting the process and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Much of the rest of the fight played out the same way. Harrison had no trouble getting the 24-year-old Pacheco to the ground whenever she wanted. She alternated between side control and top position and was able to use her strikes to control the bout.
For a brief moment in the second round, Pacheco was able to take Harrison’s back, and in a seated position, look for submissions. But Harrison was able to reverse position and continue with her control and strikes, just like she drilled in camp.
“I guess that’s what makes her so good, she wants perfection,” said Mike Brown, her coach at American Top Team and a former WEC featherweight champion. “I thought it was good experience. We made a few little mistakes that we can improve on. A lot of material to work on. It wasn’t perfect but that’s what she wants. She expects better because she knows she can do better.”
He got game
Sadibou Sy needed 17 seconds to defeat David Michaud, landing a devastating liver kick that crumbled his opponent. Introduced with the nickname, “The Swedish Denzel Washington,” Sy ended the bout with several strikes and earned six points in the welterweight division.