Double Olympic judo champ Kayla Harrison – undefeated since making the switch to MMA – has compared her wrestling skills to the vaunted ground game of men’s UFC lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Harrison made history as America’s first-ever Olympic judo gold medalist in London in 2012, defending her title in Brazil four years later.
She made a highly-anticipated switch to mixed arts in 2018, signing with the Professional Fighters League (formerly the World Series of Fighting) and since winning all five of her bouts.
With her indisputable wrestling pedigree, 29-year-old Harrison appears destined for big things in women’s MMA, potentially following in the footsteps of former judo training partner Ronda Rousey.
And speaking about her MMA style, Harrison said she sees herself as a better version of unbeaten Russian UFC champion Nurmagomedov – a man with a fabled grappling game of his own.
“I’m like a female Khabib but better,” Harrison told ESPN show ‘Now or Never’.
“Khabib’s great, he’s an amazing wrestler, he used to do judo back in the day, but I feel like the world’s never seen an athlete like me. My submission skills are a tiny bit better than his. But I like him!” the Ohio native added.
Nurmagomedov’s wrestling was famously put to the test as a child when he grappled with a bear, in footage that has become an enduring part of his legend.
When asked by ESPN hosts Steve Covino and Rich Davis whether she would beat an ursine rival, Harrison replied: “For sure, easy.”
Harrison boasts a pro MMA record of 5-0 in the PFL women’s 155lb lightweight divison, with two wins coming via KO, two by submission, and one decision win.
She is next slated to meet New Zealand kickboxing specialist Genah Fabian in October, with a win setting up a million-dollar fight in the PFL tournament final.
Harrison’s ambitions extend well beyond that, however, as she recently stated she would be up for facing women’s MMA legend Cris Cyborg, who is fresh from an acrimonious split with the UFC.
Harrison’s comments on Khabib this week were also not her first on the 155lbs Dagestani men’s star.
Speaking to TMZ Sports back in May, she said she would “beat him in a judo match for sure, 100 percent.”
She stressed, however, that she was restricting that to judo, and that she could not take on the top men’s stars in the mixed martial arts arena.
One thing Harrison shares with Nurmagomedov is a manager, as they are both represented by Ali Abdelaziz.
Abdelaziz recently posted a picture of himself and Harrison on Instagram, writing: “Me and the Olympic champ. Best female fighter on the planet.”
He has previously described her as “an absolute beast,” saying: “I see Kayla Harrison knock guys out in the gym.”