Can PFL turn Kayla Harrison vs. Cris Cyborg into a reality?
Cyborg, the reigning Bellator women’s featherweight champion, is currently one of the biggest free agents in MMA after her contract expired this summer following a successful title defense over Arlene Blencowe in Bellator 279. On Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour, PFL CEO Peter Murray said the promotion has reached out to Cyborg and still hopes to facilitate a deal that could lead to a matchup between her and PFL star Harrison, regardless of whether it’s under the PFL umbrella or as a co-promotion with Bellator.
“Listen, I think that’s the fight that fans would like to see,” Murray said on The MMA Hour. “That’s a fight that the PFL would like to get behind. Kayla said she wants that fight. I think it’s going to come down to Cris Cyborg — does Cris Cyborg want that fight? And whether Cris decides to come over to the PFL to make that fight and perhaps other fights happen, that’s one scenario. And another scenario is a co-promotion. And we’re proponents of both.
“Our understanding is she is a free agent. We’d like to make that fight happen,” Murray continued. “… There’s certainly been outreach. We’re looking forward to getting into it in earnest. … There’s no dancing [around it]. It’s not a surprise, or it’s not new news that this is a fight to PFL would like to make happen or Kayla. And so I think in the coming weeks we’re looking forward to seeing what’s possible.”
Cyborg is currently MMA Fighting’s No. 3 ranked female pound-for-pound fighter in the world. She has been one of MMA’s most dominant forces for the past 17 years, with her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 serving as her lone defeat since her 2005 professional debut. The 32-year-old has captured featherweight titles in the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce and Invicta FC. Her April victory over Blencowe was the fourth defense of her Bellator belt.
Harrison is MMA Fighting’s No. 9 ranked female pound-for-pound fighter in the world. She, too, has been an overwhelming force since debuting in MMA in 2018. The two-time Olympic champion has won all 14 of her professional bouts and is the favorite to win her third consecutive PFL title in the promotion’s current lightweight tournament.
The two women have circled each other in recent years as the biggest fight available for either in the featherweight division outside of the UFC. Harrison even inked a deal with Bellator as a free agent in 2022, however that contract was ultimately matched by the PFL.
Murray on Wednesday echoed his desire to figure out a way to get Harrison vs. Cyborg done. He added that the PFL expects to be in talks with numerous other free agents as well, saying the promotion is looking forward to the opportunity to speak with Shane Burgos — who recently fought out his UFC deal with a win at UFC Long Island over Charles Jourdain — and hopes to be in the conversation for Nate Diaz as well following the UFC star’s UFC 279 main event on Sept. 10 against Khamzat Chimaev.
“Absolutely,” Murray said when asked if PFL can afford the likely lucrative price tag Diaz will command. “… We have capital, we have the wherewithal, and we’re not a regional player.
“Now we’re a global brand and we’re trusted. Earlier days, when we were just starting out, it was challenging. That’s OK, you’ve got to build trust, you’ve got to prove yourself, you’ve got to execute. And we have proven that we have a model that works and we’re built for the long term. And it’s now an alternative for, not just fighters who are on the come-up, but established fighters who are ranked in the top 10, the top five, the top three, and No. 1. So we’re here to stay, we’re here to play and compete, and not only are we going to develop our own talent through our system, we’ll certainly continue to sign major fighters.”