Kayla Harrison is a bona fide American sporting legend. She was the primary particular person from america ever to win an Olympic gold medal in judo, doing so within the London 2012 video games then, 4 years later, she gained her second gold medal in Rio earlier than transferring into the world of MMA, the place she stays undefeated with a file of 10-0-0.
Now, Harrison finds herself in the same place to the place she was at earlier than Rio. On Aug. 19, the mixed martial arts superstar will battle to defend her Professional Fighters League championship and earn her second, $1 million prize purse within the course of.
Muscle & Health sat down for an unique interview with Harrison to learn how she is adjusting to household life, how she approaches the ups and downs of her profession, and simply how she would possibly spend these winnings.
So, what’s harder, successful a title for the primary time or defending it? “The primary Olympics was robust, as a result of nobody had executed it, you recognize? It was the unthinkable,” says Harrison. “The ‘am I able to this’ side of it was undoubtedly onerous. Then the second time, I feel there’s much more stress, if that’s doable, as a result of you have got a goal in your again. So, they’re each completely different however each equally as onerous.”
Shifting into MMA from judo, there have been requires her present sporting self-discipline to be added to the Olympic Games. On whether or not Harrison wish to see this occur, she helps the concept, however appreciates that there could also be some changes required. “To begin with, for MMA to be an Olympic sport, you have to have one unified algorithm and one world governing physique,” she says. “To get everybody in MMA to all agree on one algorithm goes to be a problem. After which, due to the brutality, it must be extra newbie primarily based as a result of the accidents that you simply absorb MMA and the harm you maintain are very troublesome except you have got head gear and shin guards, and greater gloves, or one thing like that.”
Unhealthy Instances Don’t Final Endlessly
Earlier than successful her first gold medal, Harrison was courageous sufficient to share that she had been the sufferer of sexual abuse, perpetrated by a former judo coach. Now, at age 31, she is studying to attract on life experiences to maintain transferring ahead at any time when issues get robust. “I feel, due to my life story, and due to the ups and downs, I’ve realized that life is a rollercoaster,” says Middletown, OH native. “And, I feel that this helps with the dangerous instances and the down instances, and the instances the place I need to stop, or once I really feel like I suck, or the instances once I simply don’t know the way I’m gonna get by means of this. The dangerous instances don’t final eternally. The nice instances don’t both, however it offers me braveness to know that nothing I am going by means of now will ever be more durable than what I went by means of once I was 16 or 17. That mental toughness carries me by means of.”
Like many elite athletes, Harrison is discovering consolation in realizing that sport doesn’t outline her. “As I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve grow to be a mom and my life has modified … on the finish of the day, I like what I do, I’m obsessive about it, I need to be one of the best on the earth, however a battle is only a battle,” says Harrison.
Main By Instance
To be an awesome champion in any sport requires large self-discipline, and for Harrison, an instance was set at an early age as a result of her mother was a black belt in judo. Nonetheless, in 2019, Harrison took on a wholly new problem when she became full-time guardian to her niece Kyla and nephew Emery, however fortunately her fuller family is glad to tackle the pains of the day by day grind.
“I really feel like a giant a part of my life, and the youngsters’ life, is routine,” says Harrison. “I grew up in a routine. I woke each morning, I’d make my mattress, I obtained my garments prepared the night time earlier than, for college, and as I obtained older, I awakened each morning and went for a run or I lifted. Afterward, I might have both cross-country observe, or wrestling observe, or energy and conditioning, after which I might go from there to judo, doing my homework within the automobile, then come dwelling, sleep, repeat, and do it another time.
“My children are not any completely different, Kyla has tutoring and bodily remedy, and he or she has gymnastics. Emery additionally goes to gymnastics and all of us go to church each Sunday. So, I’m a giant believer in routine and self-discipline… I eat good in order that they need to eat good. I attempt to lead by instance.”
Making the Weight
Now combating within the 155-pound class, Harrison feels comfy at this weight. She doesn’t really feel the necessity to do portion management or observe macros at this stage of her profession, as an alternative preferring to take heed to her physique. “Once I’m getting near a battle, round three weeks out, I begin to clear it up,” says Harrison. “No extra pizza, no extra ice cream and stuff like that. I eat as a lot as I need, however simply actually good, healthful meals. Nothing processed. Easy and simple proteins with numerous veggies and fruits if I really feel like I want the sugar, and that’s it. I even have single mother standing, so I eat once I can [laughs], however I feel I’ve obtained it all the way down to a science, and my physique feels actually good. diet is unquestionably one thing that I’ve taken extra critically as I’ve obtained older. When you find yourself 20 years outdated, you get better simply, it doesn’t matter what, versus if you find yourself 30 years outdated and also you simply don’t get better the identical. So, nutrition is a big part of recovery.”
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 26, 2021
Self-Confidence is Key
In her post-fight victory interviews on ESPN, Harrison has expressed her perception that she is unbeatable, however don’t mistake her self-confidence for cockiness. “You possibly can name it cocky, you’ll be able to name it no matter you need, however I simply imagine in myself,” she says. “I understand how onerous I work; I do know the trouble that I put in, I do know my capabilities and now that I’ve grow to be a assured fighter, I’m a harmful fighter and I feel that once I do every thing proper, and I put all these items collectively, I’m unstoppable. If folks assume that’s cocky, that’s tremendous. I wouldn’t inform you to not chase your goals or imagine in your self.”
So, when Harrison is completed snapping necks within the 2021 PFL Championship, the place will she money these checks? “We grew up very poor, so I don’t reside very flashy, I keep in my lane, or in all probability the lane beneath, simply to be secure (laughs), and I attempt to educate the youngsters that cash can’t purchase happiness, what we now have is sufficient, we now have one another and our well being, however after the PFL finals, I’ll in all probability take the youngsters to Disney Land or one thing.”
After MMA, what’s subsequent? Would the fight legend ever take into account following in Ronda Rousey’s boots and coming into the professional wrestling ring? “My agent talked to WWE after the  Olympics, and now I’ve children so I’m not positive if that’s one thing that I might do,” says Harrison. “However possibly for a particular look, or visitor appearances. I’ll come and knock some WWE women out, no drawback.”