At the 2022 PFL Championship game on Friday in New York City, Larissa Pacheco doesn't believe her rivalry with Kayla Harrison will be put to rest.
On this week's Trocaço Franca podcast, Pacheco stated that she anticipates finding the two-time Olympic gold medalist at least two more times inside the cage. Harrison was Pacheco's opponent twice in 2019; she lost both fights by decision.
Harrison's first professional MMA bout went the distance when she won the lightweight title at PFL that year. They both finished the 2022 season 3-0, clinching their places in the championship contest.
“I believe we’ll meet again because there are no other girls in her weight class,” Pacheco said. “We know the [other ones] are not on our level. Putting myself in No. 2 here, because I don’t have the same eyeballs or hype, she does, we’re on the same level.
“After I beat her now, I think she will have to change strategies to become a good opponent because her game is getting exposed. I wasn’t the first to slow her down. [Marina Mokhnatkina] did that, too. She has to innovate at some point. If that’s already happening when she’s fighting girls that aren’t on her level, imagine when he faces someone like Amanda [Nunes] and [Cris] Cyborg. That would be way tougher for her.”
One year after a failed attempt at the featherweight division on The Ultimate Fighter 28, Pacheco was making her debut at lightweight when she first faced Harrison in May 2019. They reconciled seven months later when the Brazilian beat Sarah Kaufman by decision and tapped Bobbi Jo Dalziel. However, Pacheco suffered yet another failure and left for home. She has since earned five first-round knockouts, and she is greatly improved.
“I’m way more mature now as an athlete and professional,” Pacheco said. “I was able to show another side of my game. Everybody saw me as a grappler, and now people fear my hand. It’s going to be completely different for me this time around. She was superior at that time, she was on a roll winning many fights against girls that were not on our level. Even though she’s still the favorite in this fight, I see myself winning pretty clearly.”
This season, Pacheco (18-4) has been on a rampage, and she intends it continues against Harrison (15-0) in the ESPN+ pay-per-view main event on Friday at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York, where $1 million is on the stake.
Larissa Pacheco will achieve two goals if she prevails in her upcoming match: she will capture the PFL championship and become the first woman to defeat the inevitable Kayla Harrison.