Kayla Harrison doesn’t seem quite ready to follow in the footsteps of fellow Olympic judoka Ronda Rousey.
Harrison retired from judo competition after winning her second gold medal on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro. The 26-year-old Ohioan initially captured gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, making her the first American to earn a gold medal in judo.
Not surprisingly, Harrison’s prowess has prompted speculation about a transition to mixed martial arts, where Rousey — a judo bronze medalist in 2008 — has become one of the sport’s biggest stars.
For now at least, Harrison doesn’t appear interested in making the move to the Octagon, and she already seems to have a pretty good handle on how things work in the MMA world, where the line between sport and entertainment is consistently blurred.
“After a [judo] match, you shake the person’s hand and you give them a hug, and you bow to them to show respect,” she said when speaking to media after her gold medal victory. “In MMA, it’s not like that, and I don’t know if I’m made – I don’t know if I’m cut out for a world where you get fights based on how pretty you are and how much you talk, and not necessarily what you’re worth in the ring.
“So for me, right now, it’s just going to be focus on being a two-time Olympic champion, enjoy the moment, live in the moment, and never say never – but right now, the answer is no to MMA.”
However, Harrison didn’t completely close the door on MMA career. If she did make the move, bantamweight would most likely be out of the question, as Harrison’s gold-medal win over France’s Audrey Tcheumeo occurred at 78 kilograms — or approximately 172 pounds. Currently the UFC does not have any weight classes about 135 pounds, although Cristiane Justino has competed at a 140-pound catch-weight.
“I’m gonna have to talk to my [coach] and talk to my manager and see what offers are out there and see what I’m gonna do. Who doesn’t want to be rich and famous at some point in their life? I yearn for that but I also see the platform. I see how many eyes watch MMA and how much reach I could have with something like that, so it is tempting,” Harrison said.
“But then again I just won an Olympic gold medal on the biggest stage in the world. Are there going to be more eyes on me there or right now?”