Claressa Shields Will Fight in MMA and Boxing ‘Concurrently’
Claressa Shields’ new MMA career will not stall her big fights inside the boxing ring, says Professional Fighters League CEO Peter Murray.
Shields remains one of the top female boxers in the world as a two-division undisputed champion. She however recently crossed over into MMA where she won her debut via knockout with the PFL promotion.
She is set to fight again under MMA rules in late August but is still available for a grudge match within the squared circle with Savannah Marshall.
“We love that she wants to be a two-sport champion in boxing and MMA and compete concurrently,” PFL CEO Murray said to Sky Sports.
“So we designed a program for her, to enable her to box, and to help develop her MMA game.”
Murray explained that allowing Shields to continue boxing was part of what persuaded her to join the PFL MMA promotion: “It started with trust. I’ve known Claressa since she was on the Team USA Olympic boxing team.”
“We started with her goals. What does she want to achieve? How can we support her journey?”
Murray said about Shields’ debut win over Brittney Elkin, during which she was wrestled to the canvas but fought back to win: “She had what I thought was an amazing debut in a challenging fight. She showed composure and courage, finishing it on the ground.”
“She has a lot more to prove to get into the PFL 2022 season to compete against the likes of Kayla Harrison and to shoot for the $1m prize.”
“How humbling – she’s at the top of her game in boxing but has paused, wanting to start from the bottom, demonstrating that she can win and move on, essentially auditioning for the PFL 2022 season.”
Savannah Marshall, the unbeaten WBO super-middleweight champion who beat a 17-year-old Shields in the amateurs, has an adverse opinion of Shields’ MMA transition.
“I wanted the fight to happen this year,” Marshall told Sky Sports. “It looks like it won’t happen this year which I’m gutted about. I’m being told early next year. “What can I do? I can’t hang around! I could wait until next year and she might go and play tennis or football!”
However it pans out, it is admirable that Shields has the drive to sit on top of the boxing world and start from the bottom of the MMA world. Recent years have seen the rise of cross-sports competition, most famously Conor McGregor’s transition to fight Floyd Mayweather, albeit for a one-off prize fight.