Major upset as women’s MMA juggernaut loses $1 million showdown
The world of mixed martial arts has been stunned after Kayla Harrison – one of the most dominant forces in the sport – suffered the first defeat of her career in the final of the 2022 PFL Championships in New York on Friday night.
Two-time defending champion Harrison had been the overwhelming favorite to clinch another $1 million payday against Pacheco – the Brazilian fighter she had beaten on two previous occasions on the way to compiling a 15-0 professional MMA record.
But Friday was Pacheco’s night at Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden, as she stunned the crowd with a unanimous decision victory, 48-47 on all three scorecards, to clinch the PFL women’s lightweight title.
American Harrison, 32, had mostly demolished all her previous opposition since transitioning to MMA as a double Olympic judo gold medalist.
Talk had already turned to what her plans with the PFL would be in 2023, with the assumption that she would again be crowned the promotion’s lightweight champion.
Harrison had started strongly against the 28-year-old Pacheco, imposing her strong grappling and seemingly setting up another routine win.
But Pacheco enjoyed increasing success with her striking, even if Harrison rallied in round three and took the fight to the ground.
The championship rounds were close, although Harrison faded noticeably as Pacheco dug deep before edging the contest on the cards.
“It’s a culmination of a career,” Pacheco said of her win.
“A culmination of a dream. It means the world to me.”
Pacheco improved her record to 19 wins from 23 bouts, with PFL bosses surely set to face calls for a fourth fight between the Brazilian and Harrison next year.