Ready for the next chapter in Kayla Harrison’s already illustrious sports career?
The Middletown native is set to make her professional mixed-martial arts debut Thursday night when she fights Brittney Elkin in a lightweight bout in Chicago.
Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalists in judo, is part of the Professional Fighters League, a new MMA promotion that held its first event earlier this month.
The Harrison-Elkin fight is one of five on the main card, which is to begin at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.
Harrison is following in the footsteps of former training partner Ronda Rousey, who was also a well-known judoka before she became an MMA superstar in the UFC.
“Ronda is always going to be, I think, that little ‘rabbit’ in front of me,” Harrison said via MMAJunkie.com. “When I was 16 and I moved to (coach Jimmy) Pedro’s, she was the superstar. She was the golden girl. She was the one everyone was watching. Every day, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be her some day. I’m going to be better than her. Anything she can do, I can do better.’ It helped take me to the highest levels of my sport.
“So I don’t see this being any different. It’s positive motivation for me. It’s healthy. I think it’s always healthy to have something to chase, something to look forward to.”
Earlier this month, Harrison told reporters she battled depression after wrapping up her second successful Olympic run two years ago but has fallen in love with the competition provided by MMA.