Picture: International Judo Federation
Fresh off the back of retaining her –78kg Olympic judo title in Rio last month, the most common question Kayla Harrison faced was: “Are you going to compete in MMA?” She did close the door on a move into the realm of the 4oz glove, but Kayla has expressed her desire to take up Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Though retirement is yet to be officially announced, Harrison has suggested that Rio will be her last Olympics, having picked up back-to-back gold medals at the games and becoming the USA’s first ever Olympic champion in judo. Competitive life as a judoka could have come to an end for the Ohio native, but it seems she’s not ready to abandon the mat life just yet.
“I’m still going to continue to have some form of athletic pursuit in my life, I can’t just walk away from it,” says Harrison on her intentions when retiring from competitive judo. “I’m going to continue to workout, start to help with the next generation of judo athletes and I’m actually going to start jiu jitsu. I think jiu jitsu looks like it will be a fun sport to learn and won’t be as hard on my body as judo is. I don’t mean it in a disrespectful way at all, but I think the mind-set for jiu jitsu is possibly just a little more relaxed and not so intense and crazy as judo can be.”
Harrison’s performances at the Rio Olympics were nothing short of completely dominant, finishing all of her matches via ippon. Perhaps most notably it was on the ground, using ne-waza (ground fighting) skills, that she carved all of her victories via a combination of pins and juji gatames (armlocks). With obvious prowess on the mat, and her US teammate Travis Stevens already a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, there’s a fair chance Kayla could start to excel in BJJ very, very quickly.
“Judo is my thing, it’s my sport and it’s what I’m known for, but I think jiu jitsu will give a chance to still workout, but not at such a crazy, intense level as I have had with my judo,” explains Kayla. “At the end of the day it’s always good to learn something new and have some fun with it.”
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