Claressa Shields is new to ground play. But to punch? Oh, it’s really in his wheelhouse.
After being outplayed on the floor for two consecutive rounds, Shields was able to stay in a safe, kneeling position and hit huge punches to finish Brittney elkin by TKO 1 minute and 44 seconds into the third round of the PFL 4 main event Thursday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Shields, one of the best female boxers in the world, was making her debut in mixed martial arts.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Shields said in his post-fight interview. “It’s crazy.”
Elkin, a brown Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt, knocked Shields down in the first two rounds of the bout, contested at 155 pounds, and for the most part didn’t let go. In the third, Elkin attempted to knock Shields down, but Shields stuffed him and remained on his knees with Elkin gripping his legs. From this position, Shields took off with huge punches until referee Gasper Oliver stepped in and stopped the fight.
“I have never doubted myself winning a boxing match in my life,” Shields said. “MMA, it’s like I could lose that first fight.… I just had an attitude of never giving up every round.”
Shields has spent part of the past six months training mixed martial arts at JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the home of UFC stars such as Jon jones and Holly holm. But most of his preparation for that debut has taken place over the past 10 weeks or so. Shields became the first undisputed four-belt-era undisputed two-division boxing champion in March, defeating Marie-Eve Dicaire.
Shields is a two-time Olympic boxing champion and current three-division professional boxing title holder. The Flint, Mich. Native said she plans to fight boxing again before the end of the year and will continue to participate in the sport, but is now focusing on MMA. . Shields, 26, learned the new sport very well and fairly quickly, his coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn told ESPN.
But Thursday’s first two laps were risky for Shields, who barely wrestled or grappled before arriving at JacksonWink. Elkin took her down in the first round, switched to full mount, and landed some punches from the top. In the second, it was more or less the same with Elkin resisting certain combinations of shields on her feet and making her descend, sliding to ascend. From there Elkin landed punches and went for an armband, which Shields was able to escape.
“She had me on the ground, but she couldn’t hurt me,” Shields said. “Her punches didn’t hurt me. She tried to put an armband in my arm and it didn’t hurt me.”
Shields stopped a takedown attempt to start the third round. She said her coaches were yelling at her to get up and get her strength back, but she saw that Elkin didn’t like the punches she was hitting from above on the floor. So she just kept hitting – until she got the TKO.
“I might have lost those two innings, but I’m not losing this fight,” Shields said, explaining his state of mind.
Elkin (3-7), a 35-year-old Wyoming native, is on a four-game losing streak.