PFL commentator Sean O'Connell is hopeful that the promotion can keep 2019 PFL women's lightweight champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Kayla Harrison, once she hits free agency.
O'Connell spoke with MMA Junkie Radio and discussed Harrison's rare star appeal, as well as how he thinks the Professional Fighters League is going to offer her more than any other promotion, including the UFC, when it comes time for her to negotiate a deal in free agency.
“Kayla moves the needle,” O’Connell said (h/t MMA Junkie). “People tune in to watch her fight. She is a compelling and dominant champion. She’s the most impressive athlete, man or woman, that we have on our roster, and you can make an argument she’s the most impressive combat sports athlete in two sports in the world right now. I think that she’s kind of admitted to herself that she probably needs to do a better job of selling her own fights and selling her own personality, and I think that heel turn of sorts is part of the way that she’s decided to do it. So she’s incredibly important, and I hope she runs her whole career through the PFL. That’s what I hope to see. But on the flip side of it, knowing the ballpark of what Kayla is making for a season of fighting in the PFL and an estimate of what she could be making elsewhere – we’re talking about her going to the UFC. It is no more important for the PFL’s future to keep Kayla than it is for Kayla’s future to stay with the PFL. Nobody else is going to pay Kayla Harrison what the PFL is paying her.”
He continued on to say he understands Harrison's aspirations to become the best fighter in the world, which would mean her having to eventually face two-division UFC champion and training partner, Amanda Nunes, but also believes that nobody values her services more than the PFL. Harrison makes her return to action on October 27 when she faces Taylor Guardado in the finals of the 2021 PFL Women's Lightweight Tournament.
“I know she wants to check this box of, ‘I’m the greatest fighter on the planet’ and there’s only one woman (Nunes) she would have to beat that would test that, who happens to be her training partner – so that might not happen, anyway,” O’Connell said. “Kayla Harrison is going to be in high demand as a free agent, but no one values her more than the Professional Fighters League does. No one is going to pay her more than PFL is willing to pay her, and ultimately this is a business. And now that she’s the mom of two children, I know that financial security and making sure their future is set is more important to her than anything else, so I think that this is such a mutually beneficial relationship. It would be very unwise for the PFL to let her go anywhere else, and I think it would be very unwise for her to push the envelope to go somewhere.”