PFL Founder Reacts to Kayla Harrison’s Move to UFC

Kayla Harrison (Via PFL)

Kayla Harrison has enjoyed significant success in her MMA career. Following an illustrious judo career where she earned two Olympic gold medals, Harrison transitioned to MMA in 2018.

She initially gained experience in the MMA world by working as a cageside reporter and commentator for the PFL. Her path to fighting in the promotion was set, and when she finally entered the cage, she dominated as anticipated.

At 33, Harrison achieved a 15-1 record in the PFL (17-1 total) and secured two lightweight titles from June 2018 to November 2023.

In 2024, she left the promotion to sign with the UFC. PFL founder Donn Davis has taken pride in the high crossover rates between promotions, which typically favor the PFL.

However, Harrison’s departure was unexpected for Davis, who compared it to a scenario involving two of the NBA’s greatest stars.

“Some people at the very, very, very top of their career are LeBron James and some at the very, very top are Kevin Durant and they’re both otherworldly basketball players, but who they are is very different as people,” Davis said on WEIGHING IN.

Kayla Harrison (Via PFL)

“One wants to lead and change their sport and wherever they are is the best in the world. The other is a follower who needs validation and we couldn’t do anything about that.”

Harrison not only made her UFC debut at UFC 300 this past month but also fought at bantamweight for the first time in her career. Critics have often questioned the level of competition Harrison faced in her previous fights.

Due to her larger size from her judo days, Harrison was not keen on weight-cutting, which led the PFL to create a lightweight division for her—a women’s division that does not exist in MMA.

Consequently, the fighters in the league’s lightweight seasons were often featherweights, bantamweights, and sometimes even flyweights.

Harrison faced a significant challenge at UFC 300 to begin this new chapter of her career. Remaining as dominant as ever, she defeated former UFC champion Holly Holm with a second-round rear-naked choke.

Despite Harrison’s departure, Davis considers her an outlier in the broader context of promotional dynamics between the UFC and PFL.

Kayla Harrison (Via PFL)

“A marketing and promotion job, nobody better at that than Dana White,” Davis said. “So, how PFL markets and promotes is different. We don’t have a Dana White system here.

We have a different marketing and promotion system. How we build our fighters, how we market and develop our product. We’re doing a pretty good job of that. This year, we’re 45 percent of UFC’s audience with $0. They spend $200 million a year (laughs). We do it differently.

“When you get to the promoter jobs, where did [Paul] Hughes just sign? Last time I checked, it was PFL, not UFC. Where did Dakota [Ditcheva] sign?

Where did Cédric Doumbé just re-sign? So, we haven’t lost a signing. Period. Why do fighters want to come here? We get to them earlier. We offer them more control. We offer them more flexibility. We’re winning.

“The classic promoter job of the UFC, developing talent, forming a relationship with talent, and making talent think you’re in their corner, guess who’s winning that game? It ain’t them.

Fighters don’t want to be there, fighters aren’t signing there, and if fighters leave there, we’ll have more of them.”

Harshad Patel

Written by Harshad Patel

Harshad Patel, a passionate and zealous blogger, writes about WWE with an unmatched fervor. With a writing style that is as dynamic as the wrestling matches he covers, Harshad captures the essence of WWE through his insightful analysis.

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