Decorated boxing champion Claressa Shields, who is widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound female boxer in active competition has signed up to the PFL promotion, where she will make her MMA debut next year.
Shields is the highest profile female boxer to cross over to MMA since Holly Holm, and she has similarly impressive credentials, having help multiple titles in three different weight classes in addition to being a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
The 25-year-old, who has a 77-1 amateur boxing record and is 10-0 as a professional, has been flirting with the idea of competing in MMA for some time, and at one stage was even seen training with MMA star Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos, who has had ambitions to compete in the boxing ring.
“I’m still gonna box and do MMA at the same time,” Shields told ESPN. “I could box in my sleep. That’s not something that I really have to worry about. I’m gonna spend a lot of time learning and just growing in MMA, but I’m still gonna accept my mandatory challenges in boxing. I’m gonna fight those girls, I’m gonna beat them, but I plan on having maybe two or three boxing matches and two to three MMA fights next year.”
Despite all her accomplishments in the boxing ring, Shields feels that female fighters in MMA get more attention and so she’s eager to elevate her career to new heights in the sport.
“I feel like I’ve had fights in boxing that have captured the sports world, just women’s boxing isn’t treated equally,” Shields said. “Every MMA league, they have women fighters main event. The PFL give women a chance to fight for a million dollars just like they give men a chance to fight in a league for a million dollars. In boxing, there aren’t those kind of opportunities for women.
“You have two or three of us that are getting paid good money, and then the rest of them are kind of just like opponents, and they don’t really have a large following and a big backing. In MMA, in the PFL, you create your own destiny, and that’s what I want to do. I created my own destiny in boxing and as far as in becoming a two-time Olympic champ, starting from the Junior Olympics to the real Olympics, world championships and now being a professional world champion. I just wanna test myself really.”
PFL already have another big name female fighter on the roster, with two-time Olympic Judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison having won their 2019 female tournament, and though they are friends, Shields envisages a time when the two of them will fight in the promotion.
“Just me being who I am, of course I want to fight the best. Right now, she’s the best. She’s the winner of the PFL league. She won the million dollars, and I was able to watch all of her fights leading up to that not because I was getting ready to come to the PFL, but because I’m a fan of hers and we’re actually friends. We’ve been at both Olympics together. We know each other.
“I actually texted her this morning, so of course that’s who I’m looking at down the line, but then again like I said, the PFL, you create your own destiny. Anything can happen on any given night so we can be in a tournament in 2022 or 2023 and be fighting, and she loses. It’s like anything can happen, so I’m just gonna take it one fight at a time. I’m not initially thinking of Kayla Harrison right off the bat, but she will be in my thoughts towards the end of 2021.”