Kayla Harrison and Cris Cyborg haven’t had a chance to fight yet. But their relentless trash talk made them one of the best rivalries of 2022.
The Cris Cyborg vs. Kayla Harrison fight is still just a fantasy but the two decorated fighters spent most of 2022 building up the stakes with a non-stop stream of shade, trash-talk and digs, both subtle and unsubtle. If and when they do actually face off, it’s going to be epic.
As part of our Fandoms of the Year project, we’re taking this week to celebrate some of the best rivalries of 2022. To get more perspective on the Cris Cyborg vs. Kayla Harrison rivalry, and what it felt like to be on either side of it in 2022, we’re turning it over to some of their biggest fans.
The Kayla Harrison perspective
The ongoing feud between MMA fighters Cris “Cyborg” Justino and Kayla Harrison is just starting to heat up. The interesting point about these two ladies beefing with each other is the realization that they might one day actually get the chance to punch each other in the face. That hope is what fuels the intense fire of the fans. There seems to be a genuine hatred between these two and with Justino entering into free agency soon, it could be a perfect time for these two to step into the cage together and settle things once and for all.
It seems like it is less a matter of if these two will battle it out, but when. In the eyes of Harrison fans, she clearly has the upper hand. Harrison is a former Olympic Judoka with a gold medal to boot. Since coming to MMA she has not lost and has proven that her skills can translate over nicely. In the out-of-the-cage confrontations with Justino, Harrison has proven she will not be bullied. In fact, if out-of-the-cage battles were counted as rounds, Harrison fans would have her up 3-0.
Round One for Harrison
Ever since getting into MMA the hype surrounding Harrison has been high. When she began to win that hype just increased. She has the skills and the confidence to begin to make some callouts and she targeted Justino. The two were in different promotions but Harrison still wanted to make the bout happen. She called for cross-promotion and even invited Justino to her gym to settle their ongoing Twitter banter in person. Instead of showing up with gym bag in hand, Justino decided to block Harrison on social media, for going too far with her comments
Round Two for Harrison
Prior to her bout at Bellator 279 against Arlene Blencowe, Justino showed up to media day wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “F-cking Legend” across the front. Meanwhile, in another part of the world getting ready to fight for a completely different promotion, Harrison decided to do a little trolling. She showed up to her PFL media day with a shirt of her own. Hers read “Legend Killer,” a clear jab at Justino.
Round Three For Harrison
Justino has had an amazing career in MMA and has fought at the highest of levels in her day. It seems as if Harrison is just getting started but has the fan’s support on her side. She does not have the luxury of being able to fight in the UFC and have that backing behind her since they do not have a women’s lightweight division at this time. Despite these facts, Harrison was still nominated for an ESPY Award this year. She was the only female fighter nominated for ‘Best MMA Fighter’ in 2022, a point that Justino cannot say about herself.
As a fan of Harrison, this feud with Cyborg is everything. Harrison fans know that she is the best female MMA fighter out there but are being held back by a lack of competition. Fans are clinging to the possibility that this fight is made and Harrison to get the recognition she deserves.
In MMA rivalries fuel the fire and make for exciting fights. Not since the days of Ronda Rousey has there been a female fighter who is willing to troll, and engage in a battle of words. Harrison and her tenacity are what give these fight fans life. As a fan of Harrison, this rivalry is so important because it feels that Harrison and Justino are singlehandedly keeping the trash-talking spirit of MMA alive on the female side.
The Cris Cyborg perspective
It’s been a while since there’s been a legitimate rival for Cris “Cyborg” Justino. For more than 10 years the featherweight was undefeated and one of the scariest women in all of MMA. Despite losing to Amanda Nunes in 2018, her stock continues to rise. Since that loss, she’s won six MMA fights in a row and became the first-ever WMMA Grand Slam champion, earning a title in four major MMA promotions. In 2022 Justino lived a lifelong dream of hers and fought in a professional boxing match, and won.
But fans of MMA know there are a lot of questions left unanswered between her and PFL champion Kayla Harrison. The two have been trading jabs for years, both safely in rival promotions with no real chance of a fight.
But now, with Justino and Harrison nearing the end of their respective contracts, the fight could finally come to fruition.
It’s clear Harrison is game for the fight, at least according to her coach, Mike Brown.
“She just wants to prove that she’s the best fighter on the planet regardless of what organization,” Brown told MMA Junkie. “So whatever that takes, whether that means doing single fights and bringing in some of the best fighters on the planet, that’s what needs to be done, because that’s all she cares about.
And Justino is equally interested in the match-up.
“I was thinking she was gonna go back to PFL,” Cyborg told MMA Junkie. “I think all the things, she go everywhere, it’s like promotion. Hey, you have to be smart. Who’s gonna pay better? … So I believe this fight will happen in the future, maybe gonna happen (now), but I just have to focus on Arlene and wait to see what’s gonna be next.”
There’s no doubt that Harrison is one of the best female fighters today, but her 15 professional wins pale in comparison to Justino’s 28. And the level of competition that Justino has faced is far and away better than Harrison’s.
Right now the biggest fight to make in MMA is Justino vs. Harrison and let’s hope the MMA Gods make it happen before Justino hangs up her gloves forever.