Dana White ‘not sure’ unbeaten star Harrison is ready for UFC switch – even though she’s tipped as woman to beat Nunes
Undefeated MMA star and two-time Olympic gold medallist Kayla Harrison has designs on establishing herself as the greatest female fighter in history, but Dana White remains unconvinced that she can dethrone Amanda Nunes.
Harrison's credentials appear to lend credence to her lofty aims. The American judoka is a perfect 9-0 in her still-developing mixed martial arts career, with her foundation established by a world class grappling career which saw her register a record of 45-7 in judo en route to her two Olympic golds, along with titles in the World Judo Championships and and the Pan American Games.
She continued her impressive apprenticeship in mixed martial arts last weekend when she earned her ninth straight win when she defeated Mariana Morais by first-round TKO, after which she made clear her ambitions in MMA.
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"My goal is to be the greatest of all-time," Harrison said following her victory. "She is currently the greatest of all-time. The biggest compliment I could give to Amanda is I hope to fight her one day. That’s the best compliment I could give her because that means she’s the GOAT. She’s what we’re all chasing.
"From now on, I'm the baddest woman in the room - and in any room," she added in her post-fight comments.
The 30-year-old Harrison has also revealed that her contract with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) expires at the end of the current season, at which point she would be free to negotiate with the UFC ahead of a potential featherweight showdown with UFC two-division champ Nunes - but Dana White says that it is far from assured that Harrison will inevitably end up on the UFC roster.
"I don’t know if she’s ready," White told TSN. "I mean, when she feels like she’s ready, I’m always looking for the best possible people to come in and fight....
"I just don’t know if her people think she’s ready yet. It’s a whole other level when you get here.
"Holly (Holm), Germaine (de Randamie), Aspen Ladd … Julianna Pena – the list goes on and on,” White said of the other members of the UFC's female featherweight stable.
"It’s a lot tougher when you come over here. I don’t know if they think she’s ready or not, but we’ll find out."
However, Harrison's entry into mixed martial arts mirrors that of one of the sport's most transformative female fighters, Ronda Rousey, who entered the sport from a similar background to Harrison before developing into one of the most prominent fighters, male or female, of her generation.
"The way that she fought [against Morais] and her accomplishments, who's going to question her?" asked former UFC champ Daniel Cormier on ESPN.
"Who is questioning Kayla Harrison? Kayla Harrison believes everything she says.
"Paging Claressa Shields, who I think is a great boxing champion, paging her teammate Amanda Nunes - because guess what Amanda Nunes, you're in the room with her and she's saying she's the baddest woman in any room she steps into."
One potential sticking point for a Harrison-Nunes fight is their respective weights. Harrison competes primarily at 155lbs, while Nunes is the UFC champ in the 145lbs and 135lbs divisions - though Harrison made a successful featherweight debut last November.
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"I know she's heavier, I know she's bigger," said Cormier of the weight differential. "But if Kayla Harrison finds her way down to 145lbs, I don't know who can go with her.
"With that ability, that confidence and now her striking is starting to step up, Kayla Harrison is scary."
So with Cormier and Harrison herself seemingly convinced of her potential to be a difference-maker in the UFC, all that remains is for Dana White to agree.
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