New PFL champ Larissa Pacheco hopes for future fights with Kayla Harrison

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With a life-changing $1 million win now in her pocket, Larissa Pacheco already is thinking about future fights against a women’s combat sports legend.

Pacheco (19-4) pulled off an all-time MMA upset this past Friday when she outworked Kayla Harrison (15-1) for a unanimous decision at the 2022 PFL Championships in New York. Harrison was a two-time PFL season winner and a huge favorite heading into the fight, which was her third against Pacheco. Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, had two previous wins against the Brazilian.

But Pacheco bucked the odds and shocked just about everyone – except herself and her team.

“I was pretty confident,” Pacheco told MMA Junkie on Sunday. “I didn’t know if it was going to be over the five rounds or if I was going to get a knockout. Of course, Kayla is a very good fighter. It was a great fight. But I was really confident that I would come out with the win.”

Pacheco handed Harrison the first loss of her MMA career. Harrison said prior to the 2022 PFL season that it likely will be her final one in the PFL tournament format. She is interested in superfights, and now that the PFL has added its first pay-per-view to its promotional resume, Harrison might move to one-off fights in 2023.

But if the PFL does a women’s lightweight season again, which would pave the way for Pacheco to go after a second $1 million win, Harrison would have an opportunity to change her mind and look for a piece of revenge and the third title that eluded her Friday. That likely would be OK with Pacheco rather than a move to women’s featherweight, if that’s where the PFL puts its attention in 2023 with new signings Aspen Ladd and Julia Budd available.

“We’re going to sit down with the team. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll fight again,” Pacheco said. “I want to fight the best. I want to show I’m one of the best. I think the fight’s going to have to happen again.

“I want to stay at this weight. I represent this weight very well. I think there are other good girls out there. I don’t see why we have to change a division when we already have a new champion. I hope to keep on fighting right at this weight. We need (more fights). She’s winning 2-1. I need to tie her and then beat her.”

Pacheco said Harrison showed class and respect in the aftermath of the fight – and even though she lost, she helped put both of them higher in the sport’s collective consciousness.

“It was a very good fight,” she said. “I think that credentialed me to show how good both me and her are. It means a lot. It was many years of work to get here. To have beaten Kayla – nothing against her – to have beaten a two-time gold medalist, somebody that everybody was saying was the toughest female fighter on the planet, to come out with the win really, really means a lot to me.

“She came and talked to me afterward. She was very respectful. She was very friendly. I think she’s dealing with it well. I lost twice to her and I had to deal with it. It’s part of the game. You have to learn how to deal with the loss, as well.”

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