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Kayla Harrison: About the Ronda that I remember
21 Jun 2016 11:30
After Rio, Harrison must make a big decision about her future. She’ll decide if she wants to leave judo for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), just like her former roommate Ronda Rousey. “I never say ‘never,’” Harrison said. “Judo is my first love. It’s my passion. But who doesn’t want to be famous? It takes a special kind of person, but I think that I could step in the cage and beat somebody up for a lot of money.
Rousey has asked Harrison to be in some future projects with her and Harrison said she has been a good mentor and “guided me through some of the craziness and some of the stuff that I’ve had to do.”
While Rousey was preparing for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where she won a bronze medal, Harrison was her training partner.
“One thing I will never deny about Ronda is she would rather chew off her own arm than lose and I’m the same way,” Harrison said. “I would do whatever it takes to win, so having that kind of atmosphere where you’re training in it every night makes you get a lot better a lot faster.”
They shared a house with other athletes near Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Harrison, who was 16 and starting in a new place after the abusive situation with her former instructor, was the youngest.
“To be quite honest, there were days when I had no money and she would go buy the groceries,” Harrison said. “And then I could eat for a week. Yeah, there’s this big, tough Ronda persona out there for the world, but the Ronda I remember is the Ronda who would buy me groceries or make sure I had a ride to practice. Or when there were internet trolls making fun of me, she would go online and say something because people listened to her opinion.
“She was a major part of my life during the time when I could have gone either way. I was in a really bad place when I first met Ronda, so the fact that she was there for me and all of my teammates were there for me, and the Pedros were there for me, they all hold a special place in my heart because of that.”
Harrison said Rousey’s favorite word to describe them at that time was “frenemies” — friends, but enemies on the mat.
Harrison doesn’t expect to ever fight Rousey in a cage. “You’d have to chop off my legs to make 135 pounds,” Harrison said. But she still feels as competitive toward her former rival as she does toward current rival Aguiar.
“I guess you can say I’ve always kind of had a Ronda complex,” Harrison said, “because she was at the Pedros’ before me, she was their golden girl, anything she could do I wanted to do better. It’s made me push myself harder to be better and do more than any U.S. judo player has ever done.
“I think Ronda was in the right place at the right time and she was the perfect person to take women MMAs to the level that she’s taken it. If it had been me, it wouldn’t have been as successful, because I’m not Ronda. That’s the truth of it. She is — she’s crazy.”
Harrison laughed. “She’ll say whatever she wants whenever she wants to whoever she wants. She’s not afraid of that. I’m not like that in a lot of ways and I’m a little more reserved. I don’t have any regrets. I’m happy with where I am. Everyone has their own journey. Ronda has her own journey. I have my own journey. Everything happens for a reason and if I do MMA, then I’ll have a Ronda complex again and I’ll have to do everything bigger and better, but for now, I’m happy just being Kayla.”
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