Kayla Harrison, a former judo world champion who took home gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games, was being interviewed in the middle of the ring after she defeated Cindy Dandois in the first round of their June 25 fight with an arm bar submission.
In a post-bout interview, after warning her Professional Fighters League competitors that she was coming for the throne, she turned and urged the audience to donate to the Champlain Towers South collapse victims.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison is raising money for Surfside victims through her Fearless Foundation. (Brian Corsello @MightyJax)
“I encourage you guys to go and donate to the survivors,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a tragedy here in our own country, so I encourage you all to donate, give what you can, and do your part.”
“It’s a huge tragedy,” she told Fox News Thursday. “It’s also one of those things where you think, ‘Oh, it doesn’t happen in America – that happens in Third World countries or whatever.’ But it just happened.”
Harrison, one of if not the most accomplished American judo practitioners in history, has a 10-0 MMA record.
Originally from Ohio, Harrison said the collapse left her shaken. She lived near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and now lives in Coconut Creek, Fla., just 35 miles from Surfside.
Harrison training in an undated photo. (Brian Corsello @MightyJax)
“I remember being worried if my friend was OK and the panic that set in,” she said. “And I could just picture all these family members and people who knew people who live there, or who live there themselves, and the panic and the fear that sets in.”
The tragedy stuck in her head leading up to the fight, she said, so much so that she decided she would make a public plea on behalf of the victim’s families if she was given the mic.
“I felt terrible,” she said. “And the only thing I know how to do when I feel terrible, or when I’m down or when there’s something that I want to fix, is to try to get up and do something about it. That’s why we decided to do this.”
Harrison is asking for donations to her charity, the Fearless Foundation, which normally works to help survivors or sexual abuse. Those donations will be given to two charities in support of the Surfside victims – the Surfside Hardship Fund and the Shul of Bal Harbour Central Emergency Fund.
Harrison is asking for donations to her charity, the Fearless Foundation, which normally works to help survivors or sexual abuse. Those donations will be given to two charities in support of the Surfside victims – the Surfside Hardship Fund and the Shul of Bal Harbour Central Emergency Fund. (Brian Corsello @MightyJax)
She did not immediately have an estimate about how much she had raised but said she hoped to hand over at least $20,000.
“I have the ability to give back, and to me that’s what being an athlete or a role model or an entertainer is all about,” she said. “It’s about what you do with it, not just what you get out of it.”
The fighter donated $5,000 herself and said her promotion, the PFL, donated another $10,000.
You can find the Fearless Foundation here.
The collapse death toll reached at least 64 Thursday, two weeks after the high rise crumbled, with 76 people still unaccounted for.