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PFL Founder Criticizes Kayla Harrison’s UFC Move

Kayla Harrison’s UFC Move criticized by Donn Davis
Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison has carved out an impressive career in MMA following her stellar achievements in judo, where she became a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Transitioning to MMA in 2018, Harrison initially worked as a cage side reporter and commentator for the PFL before making her debut in the cage. Her dominance was immediate and consistent.

Harrison, 33, compiled a 15-1 record in the PFL and secured two lightweight titles from June 2018 to November 2023. However, in 2024, Harrison made a significant career move by parting ways with the PFL to sign with the UFC. PFL founder Donn Davis, while proud of the promotion’s ability to attract talent, did not expect Harrison to leave. He compared her departure to a contrast between two NBA superstars.

“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. “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 recently made her UFC debut at UFC 300, competing at Bantamweight for the first time. Criticized for facing lower competition levels in the PFL, Harrison faced a significant challenge in her UFC debut. Despite her reluctance towards weight-cutting, Harrison accepted the challenge and faced former UFC champion Holly Holm. Demonstrating her signature dominance, Harrison secured a second-round rear-naked choke victory over Holm.

Davis views Harrison's departure as an outlier in the broader competitive landscape between the UFC and PFL. He emphasized the distinct promotional strategies and successes of the 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."

Davis highlighted recent signings to the PFL, including Paul Hughes, Dakota Ditcheva, and Cédric Doumbé, noting the promotion's success in attracting talent.

“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."

Despite losing a star like Harrison, Davis remains confident in PFL's approach and growth, asserting that fighters are increasingly choosing PFL for its unique opportunities and supportive environment.


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