Should Kayla Harrison fight at 135?

With Kayla Harrison's surprise UFC signing comes the task of making weight, but can she?

By: Stephie Haynes | 4 weeks
Should Kayla Harrison fight at 135?
Kayla Harrison | Matt Davies / ZUMA Wire / IMAGO

On Wednesday evening, it was announced that former PFL women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison had signed a UFC contract. While that news was a bit of a stunner all by itself, the second part of the report was even more shocking—Kayla would be making her UFC debut at bantamweight. That’s a 20lb difference (155lbs) for those keeping track of her normal competitive weight in MMA, and a 37lb difference from the weight she competed at during both her Olympic runs (172lbs).

I almost forgot to mention that there was a third element to this very significant signing. Kayla will be facing 42-year-old former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Holm might not be at her peak powers anymore, but she’s still a powerful grinder who holds a 2020 win over reigning champion Raquel Pennington. Harrison knows a little something about that grindy style too, but she also carries an additional nine-year youth advantage into this contest.

Did I mention that Kayla Harrison vs. Holly Holm will take place at UFC 300? The added pressure of being on a card of that magnitude in your UFC debut is now something that needs to be considered. How many times have we seen big names come to the UFC and then choke in their first fight? Remember Judo Thierry Sokoudjou? I sure do.

Can Kayla Harrison even make 135?

Obviously, Harrison is a professional, and will no doubt do everything in her power to make the weight, but it’s not just about weighing in on the mark, it’s about safety. Can Kayla Harrison make 135lbs safely? The lightest she’s competed at, so far, is 145lbs back in 2020. She made the weight and won her bout, but is there room for another 10lbs? Has she done a test cut?

According to Dana White (take that with a grain of salt), Kayla has made the test cut successfully. He even boasted that she’d done it more than once. In November, Harrison was asked about a possible bantamweight fight somewhere in the near future and this is what she told MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin:

“I mean 135 will challenge me in ways… like I’m going to have to lose a piece of me to be able to fight at 135 pounds,” Harrison said this past November. “I think just structurally, I carry a lot of muscle. I’m already kind of lean, so I’m going to have to lose muscle. I’m going to have to change my entire lifestyle. I mean I have already done that to fight at 145.

“It’s crazy what happens when you take care of your body and eat properly and sleep and recover. I was a knucklehead when I was younger. But I have faith whatever is meant to be, will be.”

Kayla Harrison vs. Larissa Pacheco II

I’m having a very hard time figuring out where she’ll find 20lbs to lose. I’m not ruling it out, though. Who would’ve thought Jose Aldo would be as competitive as he was at 135 when he was first talking about making the drop down? But that was just 10lbs. Kayla has twice that to deal with. Let’s say she safely cuts the weight. Now we have to ask: Can Kayla Harrison be competitive after such a brutal cut? That’s today’s $64,000 question.

I’ve become quite safety conscious over the years, and now that I’m an old lady, I look at Kayla and say a little prayer for her. I’m not even religious, but I still do it because that’s a gargantuan cut, and on the off-chance there are any deities out there that might be listening, I want to have my bases are covered. There are a lot of things going in her favor that could see her in the W side of the column, but first, she has to make the weight. I’m rooting for you, Kayla. I’m just an old nag that worries.

What do you think?

We’re pinning this post to our front-page all day to give our community a chance to have their say. So jump in the comments and tell us whether you think Kayla can make 135 and if she should even attempt it. But if you want to discuss anything else, that’s cool, too. You’ve got an open forum here, so use it.

THE RICHEST NIGHT ON MMA, PFL - PROFESSIONAL FIGHTERS LEAGUE - World Championship, WM, Weltmeisterschaft - FIGHT NIGHT, 11 25 2022, PFL - PROFESSIONAL FIGHTERS LEAGUE - WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - FIGHT NIGHT, 11 25 2022, KAYLA HARRISON, AMERICAN, FIGHTING OUT OF COCONUT CREEK, FLORIDA, WOMEN S LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP, NEW YORK USA
KAYLA HARRISON | Odyssey, IMAGO

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About the author
Stephie Haynes
Stephie Haynes

Stephie Haynes has been covering MMA since 2005. She has also worked for MMA promotion Proelite and apparel brand TapouT. She hosted TapouT’s official radio show for four years before joining Bloody Elbow in 2012. She has interviewed everyone there is to interview in the fight game from from Dana White to Conor McGregor to Kimbo Slice, as well as mainstream TV, film and music stars including Norman Reedus, RZA and Anthony Bourdain. She has been producing the BE podcast network since 2017 and hosts four of its current shows.

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