Middletown native Kayla Harrison, created ‘to be a killer,’ returns to fighting ring in November

She hasn’t fought since she lost PFL World Championship last year.

Credit: Gregory Payan

Credit: Gregory Payan

MIDDLETOWN — Billed as the “Return of the Queen,” Middletown native and two-time Professional Fighters League lightweight champion, Kayla Harrison is set to fight again after being away from the sport for one year.

Harrison, 33, won the $1 million winner-take-all purses in the PFL World Championships in 2019 and 2021. The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. She hasn’t fought since she was upset by Larissa Pacheco in the PFL lightweight championship fight last November in Madison Square Garden.

That was Harrison’s first MMA defeat after 15 wins. In fact, that was the first defeat for Harrison since 2016 when she lost in Judo Grand Slam Paris. She won gold medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and from 2009 to 2016, her judo record was 45-7.

Harrison will fight Julia Budd, 17-6, in the featherweight division of the PFL on Nov. 24 at The Anthem in Washington, D.C.

In a promotional video on ESPN for the pay-for-view fights, Harrison, one the brightest stars in women’s MMA, said: “It’s a perfect storm, man. God created me to be a killer.”

She also created her to be a mother.

She has adopted her niece, Kyla, and nephew, Emery, and they live in Coca Creek, Fla.

Before the PFL bout was announced, it was unclear when or if Harrison would fight again. She was scheduled to have a superfight with Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in May, but Cyborg re-signed with Bellator.

Harrison thought the bout was done and Cyborg, who had been a free agent, would be coming to the PFL.

Then, this summer, there were rumors about PFL possibly partnering with or acquiring Bellator. That would have made a Harrison vs. Cyborg fight easier to negotiate, but the merger never happened.

Another possible big fight for Harrison would have been against Amanda Nunes, but she retired, vacating the UFC women’s featherweight and bantamweight titles.

“One of the hardest parts about all of it is my timing in MMA is pretty brutal,” Harrison told ESPN. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Did I really need a second gold medal?’ I should’ve just gone to MMA when I was 22 and then I could’ve just ... been this monster.”

The Nov. 24 event will feature 12 finalists set to face off for six world titles and six $1 million dollar purses.

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