Undefeated Boxer Claressa Shields Looks To MMA For Her Newest Challenge
By Erik Uebelacker
Claressa Shields isn’t satisfied dominating just one sport. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and undefeated professional boxer plans to take her talents to mixed martial arts in 2021 with her recent signing to the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
Currently ranked the No. 1 pound-for-pound women’s boxer in the world by several credible outlets, Shields has had her sights set on MMA for a while now. Footage emerged earlier in 2020 of Shields training kickboxing and Muay Thai. She cited the urge to compete in mixed martial art as wanting to fight some of the sports biggest stars like Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg.
“Also, boxing [is] super slow right now as far as woman fighters getting fights in the U.S.,” Shields told Full Mount MMA.
It’s typically uncommon for boxers of Shields’ level to make the jump to a new combat sport like mixed martial arts. James Toney famously tried it in 2010, but was promptly submitted by legendary UFC heavyweight Randy Couture.
There is no doubt that Shields’ boxing base will make her a massive threat to any opponent who dares to stand and trade strikes with her. Nonetheless, she’ll have to work hard to become proficient across multiple martial arts in order to avoid suffering the same fate that James Toney did more than a decade ago.
Shields seems to be taking the right approach, however, training at Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The gym is widely considered one of the best in the world, and has produced some of the sport’s most recognizable figures from Holly Holm to Jon Jones.
“It’s insane how much I’ve learned so far, like how much time they’re willing to put in on me,” Shields said of Jackson Wink Academy.
What makes Shields’ transition to MMA particularly special is how she doesn’t plan to stop boxing at all. In fact, she hopes to remain as active as ever, telling ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that she plans to take on two or three boxing matches in 2021 in addition to two or three MMA fights.
“I could box in my sleep, that’s not something I really have to worry about,” Shields explained. I’m going to spend a lot of time learning and growing in MMA, but I’m still going to accept my mandatory challenges in boxing.”
The combat sports community has been largely supportive of Shields’ aspirations to compete in the world of MMA. She’s received advice from former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, Olympic gold medalist freestyle wrestler Jordan Burroughs, and several others. She currently doesn’t have an opponent for her MMA debut, but plans to compete in May or June of 2021.