Olympic gold medalist boxer Claressa Shields signs multi-year deal to fight in MMA

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Claressa Shields, arguably the world’s No.1 pound-for-pound boxer, will make her professional mixed martial arts debut in 2021.
Shields, an undisputed two-division boxing world champion, signed an exclusive multi-year contract with the MMA PFL promotion. The 25-year-old will not compete in the traditional PFL ‘season format’ in 2021, but intends to fight at least twice, with an eye on a season berth in 2022. She will also continue to fight. boxer in 2021.

“I wanted to test myself,” Shields told ESPN, during his transition to MMA. “I want to see if I can be a boxing world champion and an MMA world champion. It’s something I want to test myself on. I’m not saying boxing is easy, but I’ve been on top of the world for almost 14 years now. ”

A native of Flint, Michigan, Shields was a gold medalist boxer for the United States at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. She teased the idea of ​​a transition to MMA for over a year and, at a given moment, challenged UFC two-weight champion Amanda Nunes to a 2-fight contest consisting of one boxing match, one MMA match.

At this point, Shields says she has attended “a few” jiu-jitsu classes and worked with US Olympic wrestler Adeline Gray.

“I can say it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” said Shields, of the grappling aspect of MMA. “I thought I would absolutely hate this. I thought as soon as she grabbed my leg I would get frustrated and try to bite her or something, but it didn’t happen.

The PFL has postponed its entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but plans to resume its 2021 season in April in Las Vegas. The promotion offers a lightweight 155-pound division for women, and it’s led by 2019 winner Kayla Harrison. Harrison also won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 for the United States in judo. Shields told ESPN that she and Harrison were close friends, but that they would have no problem competing with each other if it made sense in the future. Harrison is 8-0 in MMA.

“I used to tell MMA fans, I’m not just a talker,” Shields said. “I know that’s what they’re used to, all those influence hunters out there. I’m like, the real deal. Whatever I say I can do, I try my best and I do. I haven’t lost a fight since I was 17, and I’m 25. I had 77 wins as an amatuer, one loss, I am 10-0 as a pro.

“I don’t come to MMA to lose. Next time they see me in the cage I’m going to have some muscles coming out of my damn neck workout so hard to win. ”

Insights from Brett Okamoto and Mike Rothstein of ESPN contributed to this report.

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