Claresa Shields, the world’s No. 1 female boxer, will make her professional mixed martial arts debut in 2021.
Shields, the undisputed world champion in two divisions in boxing, has signed an exclusive, multi-year contract with the MMA promotion PFL. The 25-year-old will not be competing in the PFL’s traditional “season format” in 2021, but will be looking for a season berth in 2022 and wants to fight at least twice. He will continue to be in the box until 2021.
Shields told ESPN about switching to MMA. “I want to see if I can be a world champion in boxing and a world champion in MMA. That’s what I want to test myself. I’m not saying boxing is easy, but I’m been number one in the world for almost 14 years now.”
A native of Flint, Michigan, Shields was a boxer who won gold medals for the United States at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He has been teasing the idea of switching to MMA for more than a year, at one point, UFC two-weight champion Amanda Nunes challenged a boxer to a 2-fight match with an MMA match.
At this point, Shields says he attended “a few” Jiu-Jitsu classes and did some work with American Olympic wrestler Adeline Gray.
“I can tell you, this is not as bad as I thought,” Shields said, on the capture aspect of MMA. “I thought I absolutely hated it. I thought I would get frustrated when she grabbed my leg and try to bite her or something, but it didn’t happen.”
The PFL has postponed its 2020 season due to the Kovit-19 epidemic, but plans to resume its 2021 season in Las Vegas in April. The promotion offers a lightweight division of 155 for women, led by 2019 winner Kayla Harrison. Harrison also won Olympic gold in judo for the United States in 2012 and 2016. He and Harrison are close friends for Shields ESPN, but will have no problem competing with each other if it ever makes sense in the future. Harrison 8-0 in MMA.
“I was telling MMA fans, I’m not just a speaker,” Shields said. “I know they ‘re used to it, all of these cloud chasers are there. I’m just like the real deal. I do what I can, I’ll put my best foot forward, I’m not lost it. I’m been fighting since I was 17, I’m 77. , A loss.I’m 10-0 pro.
“I didn’t come to MMA to lose. The next time they see me in the cage I’m going to get muscles from my bad neck workout that are so hard to beat.”
Information from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and Mike Rothstein contributed to this report.