When Kayla Harrison finished pummeling her second Professional Fighters League opponent last month, she bolted to the back of the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. She didn’t want to be alone.
“I was crying,” Harrison said Monday.
One of the first people to come across the U.S. Olympic judo champion in a temper tantrum (retired from the sport after repeat gold in Rio) was 71-year-old Jim Pedro Sr.
Pedro, along with his Olympic medalist son, Jimmy Pedro, helped Harrison develop into the world’s best judoka. Harrison also credited the Pedros for saving her life, following suffering from depression and considering suicide after being sexually abused by a previous coach more than a decade ago.
Pedro Sr. — “Big Jim” to Harrison — found Harrison in the Atlantic City casino on the night of Aug. 16.
“What the hell are you crying about?” he demanded.
The question was legitimate, even if Big Jim may have already known the answer. Harrison had just landed 79 strikes to opponent Jozette Cotton‘s 12 to improve to 2-0 in her two-month PFL career.