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Double Olympic champ Kayla Harrison misses judo but life is good

18 Oct 2016 09:00

 The MMA Hour    IJF Media Team / IJF
20160811_IJF_78_final_ HARRISON, Kayla (USA) (9)

The first American judoka to win two Olympic titles, Kayla Harrison is continuously under fire whether she will compete into MMA or not, but she keeps the door closed and is not a hurry for any decision. She is missing judo, to step onto the tatami and fight the best, but she takes her time.

How drastic has your life since? 

I used to train 3-4 times a day but last few months lots of parties, lots of appearances, but life is good. The second title is a lot different than the first. Winning the first was amazing but the second was definitely the best US has ever soon in a sport period and a lot more pressure.

Judo in American doesn’t get the same attention as the major sports, but a lot more people are talking about judo these days.

Yes, obviously people are talking more about judo, definitely more exposure and what Ronda Rousey has done in the martial arts for women that has helped. So I definitely get more media attention and Ronda has done a great job. So it’s definitely worked out

Have you officially retired?

It’s not decided yet. I’m happy with my career, I have nothing to prove, so now it’s waiting for new challenges. For me, Jimmy and I have spoken about it, there’s nothing to prove. I will probably never compete in judo again, unless there’s a super fight. I’m really proud what I and my team have accomplished.

Almost minutes after you won two gold medals people asked you to move to MMA.

I’m not interested in an expect in MMA where competitors are more showmen. I’m not interested in the show. I want to do the show in the mat or the cage. I judo there’s a lot more about respect, you show your respect to the crowd. I’m not against MMA, but I want to fight at the highest level I can in sport and with a certain amount of respect. I’m not against MMA, I watch it like I watch other sports. At the end of the day what I do is a very controlled sport, I fight, I started to get some boxing lessons, it’s very controlled violence. I’m just getting my feet wet a little bit. I really enjoy it, it’s a new challenge, a new face for me and it’s definitely different from judo.

I’m really not a controversial person, I love competing and fighting, but I’m not a big talker. Ronda and I were teammates for years and Ronda is much more controversial than me and she is not afraid to say how she feels like. I’m more diplomatic. I just wanna fit into the athletism of fighters and not by what comes out of their mouth.

Ronda was made for MMA, without her women’s MMA was not what it is today, but it’s not who I am, I’m Kayla Harrison.

She has become a cultural icon, did you expect that.

If we knew it in 2008 in a very under the radar life, no I was probably the last person to think. But I’m super happy for her for all she accomplished. She can honestly do whatever she wants and impact the world in a big way and that’s very powerful and she can be proud of that.

Is it annoying if people compare you.

Not annoying but we’re different persons. She was a mentor for me and played a very important role and a crucial period in my life. But I’m Kayla Harrison. Ronda lost before at World Championships, Olympics, and she found a way back that she’s coming back and better than ever. A champion isn’t defined by how they win. But how they lose and what are doing about it.

How many MMA promotions have gone out to you?

There were at least three big ones. But I can’t tell now. Business is business and nothing is official, but there was interest. I think it’s great that MMA for women has become super popular and its growing exponentially. I have an opportunity to fight and make money, it’s not what I chose to do.

There are offers on the table and I can do what I want. It’s a big decision and I’m taking my time. But in the end of the day I got to follow my heart.

If you were to fight MMA, what would be your weight class.

I think 145 would be doable for me in a hypothetical world. The last time I competed at that category was 2008. I moved up to U78kg as Ronda moved up to U70kg. For judo it’s a lot different, you have to keep your weight compared to MMA where you have a fight perhaps twice per year. I can do a judo workout, I can work on the movements and the positioning and I’m exhausted after one hour while in Judo I can do a workout for 1.5 hour and spar anyone, but I’m so efficient at judo, I’ve learned it, so this is a different world.

Right now I just get my feet wet. I have not punched anyone in the face yet. I know that day is gonna come, maybe I love it, maybe I hate it? I have no dates in my schedule, I go to a lot of cities, do a lot of speeches.

What’s your future for the next 10 years?

How to make a living after judo, as there’s no pro judo. I’m talking with the IJF to be a global ambassador and helping to grow the sport in the United States. Doing stuff like that, I also have an offer to commentate, to become coach, to have an own training centre. So there’s plenty opportunities to make a living, I’m very fortunate. It helps me a lot. I was only one of seven athletes ever to repeat and defend the title. That helps me a lot to make a living.

Do you get enough appreciation?

I’m not a swimmer, a tracking field, a basketballer. I will never be one of those great athletes, but the things I want to accomplish do require a platform, but I can make my own platform and go from there. If I walk on the street with my Olympic logo then people say, are you in the Olympic team. And the next question is, “did you win?”. In the United States we are spoiled with victories. If I lived in let’s say, Azerbaijan I would have had 3 million dollar on my bank account, but in America it’s not the same. You just have to deal with it and I will use my platform to change the world. And I hope the next 'Kayla Harrison' doesn’t have to work so hard as I did.

Is there something that sticks out of all the cool moments after the Games?

I have been invited to all the parties and done cool stuff. Chuck Norris wrote a blog about me, so there were so many cool moments, ha ha.

I can’t answer right now. I’m going to admit. I miss that feeling of stepping to the mat and fight the best in the world at what I do, I miss that, but I don’t know if I’m going to find another avenue, but now I don’t know.

Related judoka and events

Related Judo Photos

  • Kayla Harrison (USA) - 2016 Olympic Games day 6 Judo U100kg & U78kg (2016, BRA) - © IJF Media Team, IJF
  • Kayla Harrison (USA) - 2016 Olympic Games day 6 Judo U100kg & U78kg (2016, BRA) - © JudoHeroes

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