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Kayla Harrison hints at following Ronda Rousey into UFC

9 Mar 2016 08:05

 The Guardian    Emmeric Le Person
20160207_Paris_ELP_Kayla Harrison_Jimmy pedro

American judo star Kayla Harrison is seriously considering trying to join her friend Ronda Rousey in the UFC following the Rio Olympics in August. Harrison, who became the first US woman to win an Olympic gold medal in judo with victory at London 2012 said Tuesday at the Team USA media summit that she has several career choices after Rio, but added: “MMA is one of the top two.”

Should Harrison choose to pursue an MMA career she would immediately become one of the sport’s more notable female fighters – even with her lack of kickboxing experience. She has become a strong voice against sexual abuse after telling the story of how an early judo coach had sexually abused her. She has started a foundation to help other women who have been abused and plans to publish a book soon.

Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Rousey won bronze, Harrison and Rousey roomed together at the secluded New Hampshire home of their coach Jimmy Pedro’s father. Harrison speaks with both a fondness and edge about that time, saying that she developed a “Ronda complex” about her roommate who was on her way to the Olympics. She wanted the same fame that Rousey had. She said it drove her and made her a better competitor and may have given her the drive to eventually win a gold medal.

She laughed on Tuesday, when she said Rousey considered her “a frenemy” – but added that Rousey was supportive and helped her deal with the aftermath of the abuse she had suffered from the coach she had worked with before Pedro. When she had no money, Rousey bought the groceries and helped her have a chance. “There’s a lot more to Ronda than you guys see,” she said.

The two stay in touch and Rousey has given Harrison contacts who can help her get into the sport if she decides that’s what she wants to do. Harrison has taken some boxing classes and has discovered that she “likes to hit people,” but quickly added that she doesn’t know what it is like to be hit and might not enjoy that aspect of fighting.

“The UFC is growing in popularity, but it’s not at a point where it has a lot of depth on the women’s side,” she said. “Of course, I say that, and I think Holly Holm is a 19-time boxing champion, and I didn’t think anyone could be a 19-time boxing champion.”

She said her current focus is on Rio and another Olympics and added that she would not jump into an MMA career without researching what she was getting into. 

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  • Jimmy Pedro (USA), Kayla Harrison (USA),  MODESTY (IJF) - Olympic Games London (2012, GBR) - © IJF Media Team, International Judo Federation
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