Judo gold medallist Kayla Harrison to follow 'frenemy' Ronda Rousey into MMA

Kayla Harrison of USA poses with her medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics during a victory ceremony on Aug 11, 2016.
Kayla Harrison of USA poses with her medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics during a victory ceremony on Aug 11, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

(THE GUARDIAN) - Kayla Harrison, the two-time Olympic gold medallist in judo, will begin a mixed-martial arts career in the World Series of Fighting.

Harrison has been talking about becoming an MMA fighter since she became the first American woman to win a judo gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

After she won her second gold this summer in Rio she said she was retiring from judo and hinted at transitioning into an MMA career.

Harrison told the website MMAjunkie that she will fight in the World Series of Fighting and also become a commentator for the network starting on December 31.

"I just want everyone to be excited and expect big things from me," she told MMAjunkie.

"This is only the beginning. I'm excited for this new chapter. I'm excited to commentate. I'm excited to be a brand ambassador and help the World Series of Fighting grow their organisation as well as help me grow myself as a fighter and a brand myself."

Harrison, 26, has a gregarious, outgoing personality that will help her as a broadcaster and the possibility of being more than just a fighter seems to have driven her decision to join the WSOF.

She had long been rumored to be a prospect for the UFC, given her friendship with the organisation's top female fighter, Ronda Rousey.

Harrison and Rousey trained together as rising Olympians before the 2008 Games (an event Harrison missed out on) and the two have stayed in touch since.

Back in March, Harrison said she considered Rousey a "frenemy".

She said then that Rousey had encouraged her to pursue an MMA career but Harrison moved slowly toward her decision. She already understood many of the judo and jiu-jistu moves but had done little sparring and was unsure how she felt about taking punches.