Kayla Harrison talks overcoming post-Olympic depression, discusses move to MMA

Kayla Harrison will make her highly anticipated MMA debut at the PFL 2 event on June 21 when she takes on Brittney Elkin.

Is Kayla Harrison destined to become MMA’s next superstar?

Harrison is receiving a lot of attention heading into the bout due to her successful Judo career which saw her win the 2010 World Championships, gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and gold at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games. Many are tipping the 27-year-old for superstardom, much like former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

Ahead of June’s lightweight fight, Harrison discussed finishing up at the 2016 Olympics and the depression and “low” moods she suffered after it was all over.

I didn’t know how it worked. I finished with the Olympics and I knew that I was done. I knew that I wasn’t going to go for another one and I was a little bit lost in my life,” Harrison recently told The MMA Hour. “I didn’t have a goal, I didn’t have something to wake up for. I was struggling. I was very depressed.

Post-Olympic depression is a real thing. It’s sort of like — not coming home from war, because that’s much more traumatic — but when you’re a Type A person and you’re an Olympic athlete and you train your whole life for one moment, even if you win, that high is so high that when you come off of that, it’s like you’re low. You just don’t know what to do with yourself. So I was not training, I wasn’t working out, I was laying in bed all day everyday, watching stupid TV shows.”

The American Top Team fighter couldn’t be more excited about her new passion in Mixed Martial Arts.

At the beginning, I was kind of skittish about it,” Harrison said. “It’s tough, too, because everyone always is like, ‘Well, look at Ronda (Rousey),’ you always have the comparison, so for me I didn’t know — it’s just so different from the judo world. But I’m kind of loving it. I’m kind of starting to become my own person in MMA, if that makes sense.

In judo, I always had certain expectations, like everyone sort of is like, ‘This is Kayla. This is the golden girl. This is the poster child.’ And so I always felt like that’s who I had to be. In MMA, no one really knows me. Nobody cares about judo. It’s such a small sport in the U.S., so now just get to do what I want and be Kayla. And I’m enjoying it.”

WMMA Lightweight World Rankings

PFL 2 takes place on June 21 from the Chicago Theater in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The event will be aired live on NBCS Sports from 8pm EST.


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