Greatest American Judoka ever makes her MMA debut tonight

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A black belt in Judo passed on love for the art to her daughter who goes on to become an Olympic medalist and an MMA fighter. That is, of course, the Ronda Rousey story.

However, Rousey is not the sole owner of that story, and ‘Rowdy’ is not the greatest American Judoka, male or female, to ever enter the cage. After tonight that honor belongs to Kayla Harrison. No American had ever won Olympic gold in Judo; Harrison did, twice, in 2012 and 2016. And she won the world championship in 2010.

Harrison makes her MMA debut tonight at PFL 2 on the NBC Sports Network. Her Olympic backstory is incredible, but Harrison has a far more important one.

The #MeToo movement and sex scandals in sports at Penn State and girl’s Olympic gymnastics have raised awareness around the issue of the sexual abuse and power. Harrison has been public about the years of sexual abuse she suffered from sensei Daniel Doyle, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.

In her most important fight, Harrison, co-authored Fighting Back: What an Olympic Champion’s Story Can Teach Us about Recognizing and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse – and Helping Kids Recover. You can buy it here.

Combining Kayla’s powerful story of sexual abuse by her judo coach with science-based information from two renowned therapists, this unique book provides critical guidance for parents and professionals. Learn how to spot the signs that a child or teen is being groomed, why kids stay silent about their trauma, how they struggle with self-blame and the brutal betrayal of a trusted authority figure, and exactly what kind of help they need to recover. No one is more qualified than Kayla and her expert coauthors to explain the impact of child sexual abuse–and what you can do to keep kids safe.

In an interview with MMAjunkie, Harrison spoke about her hopes for the book.

PFL 2: Firmino vs. Brooks takes place tonight in the Chicago Theater in Chicago, Illinois.

Main Card (NBC Sports at 9 p.m. ET)
Luiz Firmino vs. Will Brooks
Brian Foster vs. Ramsey Nijem
Kayla Harrison vs. Brittney Elkin
Efrain Escudero vs. Jason High
Ronny Markes vs. Sean O’Connell
Prelim Card (Facebook at 6 p.m. ET)
Vinny Magalhaes vs. Jamie Abdallah
Smealinho Rama vs Brandon Halsey
Rashid Yusupov vs. Rakim Cleveland
Islam Mamedov vs. Yuki Kawana
Maxim Grishin vs. Jason Butcher
Thiago Tavares vs. Robert Watley
Chris Wade vs. Natan Schulte
Dan Spohn vs. Bazigit Atajev