Claressa Shields, Olympic gold medal boxer, begins MMA career

Claressa Shields already rules boxing with two Olympic gold medals and professional titles in three weight divisions.

Her next world to conquer is mixed martial arts.

Shields has signed with the Professional Fighters League in a quest to become the first woman to have concurrent titles in both MMA and boxing, she told The Associated Press Monday. She will make her debut next year and she hopes to have two or three MMA fights in 2021, along with two boxing matches, before attempting to win the PFL title in 2022.

“I’m not trying to do this for the show,” Shields told the AP. “I take this really seriously. I don’t think I’ll win just because my hands are better than everyone else. I’m really going to reinforce the things that I’m weak at. “

Shields realizes she’s facing a steep learning curve as she prepares to fight as a 155-pound lightweight in the PFL. She is still relatively new to jiu-jitsu, wrestling and kickboxing: “I’ve never kicked anyone in my life, not even in a street fight!” she said.

But Shields is a special athlete with a work ethic to match, and she is confident that she can master other forms of hand-to-hand combat with the right training.

“I’m not going here knowing I’m going to beat these girls just because I can outbox them,” Shields said. ‘I have to get away from takedowns. Take a few flights of stairs. Make a few flights of stairs. Grab a few knees. I have to get used to being grabbed because in boxing, when a girl grabs me, I want to slam her shut.

“I really feel like I’m against any other woman, whatever it is she won’t be able to beat me.”

Many fighters have tried the move that Shields makes in both directions. Champion boxer Holly Holm famously switched sports, knocking out Ronda Rousey to win a UFC belt, while Conor McGregor killed his UFC success in a hugely lucrative boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.

Shields’ interest in trying MMA has been rumored for years, and she also expressed an interest in including UFC champions Amanda Nunes and Cris “Cyborg” Justino in a boxing ring. Now that the conversation is real, Shields is eager to do the work it takes to make her bold dreams come true.

“I just want to be good at everything,” she said. ‘I hate to lose. I haven’t lost a fight since I was 17 years old. I’m not here for a good time. I am here to make my presence known to anyone I am in the cage with. You don’t get in there and just fight a boxer. You come in against one of the best women’s martial arts ever. “

Shields’ family responded with varying degrees of disbelief when she told them about her Thanksgiving decision. Her mom didn’t believe it, and her sister angrily warned Shields not to fight men (it doesn’t) – but her dad and boyfriend were both excited for her.

Shields, of Flint, Michigan, has not settled for a workout program or a home MMA gym, but she wants to “train with some of the best MMA fighters and coaches to speed up my process,” she said.

She has spoken to former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones about training with him in Albuquerque, and will be talking to other MMA stars about training dates. Shields said she will rely on her trainers to tell her when she is ready to step into a cage.

Shields plans to work their way up to the league level in 2021 with a series of one-off PFL fights. The promotion normally hosts an annual tournament with a top prize of $ 1 million, and Shields hopes to be in the field by 2022.

Shields’ last boxing match was in January, but she’s not stopping that sport: she plans to soon announce a new date for her postponed junior middleweight world title fight with Marie-Eve Dicaire, in which she will attempt to weigh four 154 pounds unite. championship belts.

Shields is already the undisputed middleweight champion, and she wants to become the first female boxer to achieve that distinction in two weight divisions. Shields is 10-0 as a professional boxer, and she’s not worried about the time she’ll spend in MMA disrupting her boxing career.

“I can box in my sleep,” she said with a laugh. ‘I was born for that. Boxing is just in me. I will never forget how to box. Even when I’m 80 years old, a girl better not try me out because she will still be in a lot of trouble. … As you get older, you learn to train smarter, not harder. Smart training is what I try to do throughout my MMA career. “

Shields maintains that her primary motivation is to win ties in both sports, but she has acknowledged frustration with the boxing industry’s inability to make her a star at the level of her male counterparts or MMA’s top female athletes.

“I’m not mad at boxing, but boxing has always been a sexist sport,” said Shields. “Until they start treating women fairly, women’s boxing will never go where we need to go. Even men’s boxing is currently at a standstill. That’s because they just aren’t going to be fair, and the boxing gods see that. “