On a Lengthy Climb to the Prime, She Makes Quick Work of an Opponent
Kayla Harrison’s second bout of the Skilled Fighters League common season unfolded as predictably because the betting odds — tilted closely in her favor — instructed.
Harrison, who has gained the P.F.L.’s ladies’s light-weight title every of the final two seasons, wanted solely two minutes, 35 seconds, one physique slam and a collection of punches on Friday evening to dispatch Kaitlin Younger and qualify for the postseason.
On Aug. 20 in London, Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, will face Martina Jindrova for a berth within the P.F.L. last.
Past that combat, the prospects of a high-profile match with both Amanda Nunes or Cristiane Justino (a.okay.a. “Cris Cyborg”), the 2 best-known fighters in Harrison’s weight vary, stay murky. Nunes is beneath contract with the Final Preventing Championship and is slated to face Julianna Peña on July 30, and Justino is aligned with the blended martial arts promotion Bellator.
A collection of fights involving Harrison, Nunes and Justino stays an alluring, if distant, risk, and Donn Davis, the P.F.L.’s chairman and co-owner, maintains he would promote an occasion collectively with Bellator or the U.F.C. However for now, present contracts take priority, and Harrison mentioned she is concentrated on reworking herself from a judo skilled into an all-around blended martial artist.
“I’m simply a way more advanced fighter. I’m a way more advanced particular person,” Harrison mentioned at a information convention earlier than the combat. “Day-after-day I get a bit bit higher, and I’m nonetheless simply scratching the floor.”
Harrison, who’s now 14-0 in skilled M.M.A., had been slated to face Julia Budd, whose kickboxing experience instructed she could be Harrison’s hardest professional opponent but. However Budd withdrew from the bout after an harm late in coaching camp, and the P.F.L. changed her with the 36-year-old Younger, who entered Friday’s bout with a 12-12-1 report.
After touching gloves on the opening bell, the fighters circled one another cautiously. Harrison, in a southpaw stance, crept ahead, feinting and gauging Younger’s reactions.
After which she charged, bulling Younger into the fence earlier than slamming her to the mat. Then got here a grappling sequence, which favored Harrison, the judo skilled, and at last the punches that prompted the referee to cease the bout.
“The objective is to exit and dominate,” Harrison, who turned 32 on Saturday, mentioned in a tv interview after the bout. “Generally you simply really feel it.”
Early within the combat, which happened on the Extra time Elite Enviornment in Atlanta, broadcasters famous the lopsided betting odds, and mentioned one gambler had wagered $2.7 million on a Harrison win.
Given the circumstances — a two-time Olympic champion in opposition to a last-minute substitute — that seven-figure pledge was much less a wager than an funding. Simply earlier than the opening bell, oddsmakers listed Harrison as a minus-6,000 favourite, which means a $6,000 wager would yield a $100 payoff. At these odds, the $2.7 million wager would have netted $45,000.
The P.F.L. hopes the cash it has poured into Harrison’s profession can pay comparable dividends over the long run.
Harrison’s contract covers two seasons and pays her roughly $1 million per bout. Again-of-the-napkin math suggests she made about $6,450 per second on Friday evening, if you happen to don’t rely the time she spent coaching. The P.F.L. figures the cash is price it contemplating the increase Harrison lends to the P.F.L.’s profile.
The U.F.C. is to M.M.A. what the N.F.L. is to professional soccer — the most important model and moneymaker, and the undisputed business chief. In 2016, the expertise company Endeavor paid $4.2 billion for a majority stake within the combat promotion, and the corporate is now focusing on a $10 billion valuation.
The P.F.L. goals to solidify its place in second place.
Whereas the U.F.C. will stage its July 30 occasion on the American Airways Middle in Dallas, the P.F.L. held its latest Dallas-area combat card at a 2,500-seat area in Arlington.
Davis factors out that the P.F.L.’s broadcast partnership with ESPN provides it the identical broad distribution that the U.F.C. enjoys, however acknowledges that it’s an underdog that advantages from having Harrison beneath contract. He says Harrison is poised to turn into the game’s subsequent brand-name fighter.
“Think about if the united statesF.L. had found and developed Tom Brady,” Davis mentioned in an interview earlier than the combat, referring to the USA Soccer League.
Nonetheless, the bouts that would vault Harrison and the P.F.L. to new ranges of prominence stay elusive and hypothetical.
Nunes, Harrison’s former coaching companion, has mentioned she welcomes a bout, offered Harrison indicators with the U.F.C. And Nunes is herself a former champion, scheduled for a July 30 rematch with Peña, who gained the U.F.C. featherweight title from her final December.
Justino, who final competed in April, is reportedly negotiating a boxing match in opposition to undisputed light-weight boxing champion Katie Taylor.
“I’ve been teaching and coaching boxing for one combat. I’m searching for one combat,” Justino informed reporters after her most up-to-date M.M.A. bout. “I’ve executed the whole lot. I did wrestling. I did jujitsu. I did a muay Thai combat. It’s the one one I haven’t executed, is boxing. It’s considered one of my goals.”
Subsequent up for Harrison is the semifinal bout in opposition to Jindrova and, doubtlessly, a spot within the 2022 P.F.L. last.
The one assure past these bouts: another season on Harrison’s P.F.L. contact.
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