Probably the most indelible second from the primary three occasions of the 2019 Skilled Fighters League season is not a highlight-reel knockout, although there have been a number of of them. It isn’t a chaotic back-and-forth combat or an entertaining post-fight celebration both.
Up to now, the second that has resonated essentially the most got here on the finish of the opening occasion of the yr following Kayla Harrison’s unanimous determination victory over UFC vet Larissa Pacheco.
Regardless of incomes a clear sweep of the scorecards in her hardest take a look at thus far, the two-time Olympic gold medalist left the cage in tears, stopping on the trail to the dressing rooms to share an emotional embrace with one in every of her coaches. Should you had merely seen that second – a fighter strolling to the again, sobbing heavy, annoyed tears – there isn’t a likelihood you’ll have gathered that the athlete in query had simply earned the most important win of her profession.
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However that’s what makes Harrison totally different than her contemporaries and one of the crucial promising up-and-coming skills within the sport in the present day.
“It’s not a secret that I’m a perfectionist and a Type-A personality,” stated Harrison, talking with Sporting Information prematurely of her return to the cage on Thursday about her emotional response to her final efficiency. “I’m an Olympic-level athlete and have been for years. I’ve always been my own toughest critic and I know that it was a dominant performance, that I did well, but I didn’t do good enough to my standard, so I was upset.”
The clip went viral and obtained the form of responses one would anticipate within the present social media local weather.
Most learn the scenario fully improper, casting Harrison as a poor winner, who wept as a result of she did not earn one other stoppage win. Many in contrast her to Ronda Rousey, the previous UFC girls’s bantamweight champion who matriculated to the game following her personal Olympic judo success, however exited after consecutive knockout losses, each of which left her in tears, refusing to point out her face in public, but alone communicate with the media.
The comparability is clear, however lazy and misguided, as Harrison was on the podium following the occasion, addressing her efficiency and the tears everybody noticed on SportsCenter.
“I think a lot of people were quick to say, ‘This is the next Ronda – look at her; she’s such a baby blah blah blah,’ but it has nothing to do with being a baby or being a poor sport,” stated Harrison, who steps again into the cage on Thursday to face Morgan Frier in her second regular-season look of the yr. “I don’t have anything in opposition to my competitor – she did nice, she had a superb sport plan, she was sensible – I simply did not combat as much as my normal of what I anticipate from myself.
“If individuals do not like that or suppose that I’m a child due to it – I’m not crying as a result of I’m upset; I’m crying as a result of I wish to be higher. I’m upset as a result of I wish to be the perfect; that is it. That insatiable need to exit and impose my will on an opponent just isn’t one thing I can clarify to individuals.
“I am who I am; I don’t apologize for it,” she added. “I want to be the best; that’s it.”
Harrison at present exists in a really uncommon, very tough to navigate area.
She is each an simple expertise and MMA novice on the similar time; an athlete with an unimaginable pedigree who was solid as one of many faces of the Skilled Fighters League earlier than she ever stepped into the cage, however one which additionally occurs to be simply 4 fights into her skilled profession.
Her world-class athletic background, Olympic achievements and clear upside, paired with following an analogous path to the one Rousey blazed a number of years earlier set the bar extraordinarily excessive for Harrison earlier than she’d even made her skilled debut and has a method of obscuring the opposite truths in regards to the American High Group product, specifically that she simply handed the one-year anniversary of her skilled debut and has spent simply over 30 minutes within the cage via her first 4 fights.
“I’m not seasoned. I’m not a vet. I’m not a pro in that sense of the word yet,” stated Harrison, who earned stoppage victories over Brittney Elkin, Jozette Cotton and Moriel Charneski previous to her determination win over Pacheco in May on Lengthy Island. “I suppose I’m skilled and I carry myself that method and I can take care of every little thing that comes at me in an expert method, nevertheless it’s totally different in studying to tie all of it collectively and combat the way in which I wish to combat continues to be one thing (I’m engaged on).
“Everyone seems to be toting me as the following huge factor and I like that strain and I welcome that strain, however it’s strain and folks anticipate me to exit and be this well-rounded, dominant monster – and I need that too – however the actuality is that I’m not even near my potential but,” she added. “I’m nonetheless studying. I’m nonetheless rising. I’m nonetheless adapting. I’m nonetheless figuring it out.”
That is the piece individuals ought to be specializing in and occupied with, particularly when mixed with tears of frustration that flowed following her determination win over Pacheco, whose two earlier losses got here in opposition to future UFC champions Jessica Andrade and Germaine de Randamie.
4 fights into her profession and whereas nonetheless within the means of determining what sort of fighter she goes to be, the two-time Olympic gold medal-winning judo participant dominated a 13-fight veteran who holds a stoppage win over rising UFC contender Irene Aldana and was beforehand solely overwhelmed by eventual titleholders.
Now take into consideration how good she’s going to be when she really figures out what sort of fighter she needs to be and how one can put every little thing collectively correctly.
“Look, I’m a newbie,” began Harrison. “I spent 20 years doing the identical factor each single day, over and over and over and I bought actually, actually good at it and I had a variety of confidence and I actually, really believed I was the perfect on the earth at what I did.
“Now I’m again to that newbie part, however I’m not six years outdated. I’m not fearless as a result of once you’re younger, you go on the market, you do it and you do not care. I’m not that anymore. I’m a 29-year-old lady – I have fears, I have doubts, I have insecurities, I query if that is my calling and what if I’m only a nice judo participant and I’m not meant to be in a cage? What if I haven’t got what it takes?
“However I love that problem. I love placing myself in an uncomfortable place. I love feeling that. Being fearless is not not being afraid, it is saying, ‘Regardless of that, I’m going to go put myself on this scary place the place everybody expects me to be this star and be superb or needs to observe me fail.’ I wish to develop and I wish to be the perfect model of myself inside and out of doors of the cage. I really consider that I’m meant for one thing particular.”
Harrison was by no means going to be “The Subsequent Ronda Rousey” as a result of Rousey an anomaly – a uncommon expertise who submitted present Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd in her fourth skilled combat and received the Strikeforce girls’s bantamweight title the fifth time she stepped into the cage as an expert.
She was a glitch in The Matrix, like Jon Jones was when he ascended to the highest of the sunshine heavyweight division as a precocious 23-year-old dripping with pure expertise, oblivious to the truth that what he was doing appeared each preposterous and preordained on the similar time.
That being stated, all of the items are there for Harrison to be an amazing fighter – she works with an amazing workforce and surrounded by seasoned, skilled coaches; is a really world-class athlete who has proven the flexibility to excel on the highest ranges; plus she needs to be nice and has the work ethic, drive and need to make that occur.
But it surely takes time and Harrison is not in a rush as a result of she is aware of how good she might be and is keen to do no matter it takes to succeed in her objectives, even when meaning crying after a victory that might have made the remainder of the sphere on this yr’s girls’s light-weight season ecstatic.
“There’s nowhere for me to go however up,” she said. “I’m not going to worsen. I’m not going to get slower. I’m not going to get drained or burnt out. I love what I do and I get to get up every single day and go and attempt to get higher and higher and higher at it, so it is a scary idea if you concentrate on it as a result of I’m simply hungry.
“I’m beginning to get snug. I’m beginning to get a groove. I’m beginning to know what I imply when I say, ‘That is going to be my fashion’ or ‘that is how I wish to strategy this.’ I’m beginning to get it. Issues are beginning to click on. I’m getting snug with being a fighter, not simply being a judo participant.
“S-, that is scary.”
Sure, sure it’s.