Kayla Harrison just became the first American to win two gold medals in Judo, as she secured the 78 kg gold on Thursday. The 26-year-old also claimed gold in the same weight class four years ago in London. Most expect Harrison to retire following the 2016 Olympics and head to the world of mixed martial arts.
Harrison topped France’s Audrey Tcheumeo in the gold medal match despite struggled throughout the bout. In the final minute, the Ohio native took Tcheumeo to the mat and earned the win by “ippon” or a full point. Harrison had dominated the rest of the tournament, and became just the second American judoku to win two Olympic medals. Her coach, Jimmy Pedro, is the other, as he took bronze at both the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.
Harrison is now expected to turn her attention to the world of mixed martial arts, following a path paved by another former Olympic judoka, Ronda Rousey. Rousey earned a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, becoming the first American woman to medal in the sport at that level.
Harrison currently weighs around 170 pounds, so she’ll have to cut a significant amount of weight to compete in the heaviest UFC division (bantamweight, 135 pounds) or that of Invicta FC (featherweight, 145 pounds). She could also wait for either organization to add more divisions, which probably won’t take too long.
The transition to MMA won’t happen overnight, so Harrison has some time to figure out what weight she’ll fight at and adopt her own style. But with two gold medals to her name, she’ll certainly be a hot free agent when if/when she does decide to move into the sport.