Claressa Shields is a champion. She has shown this for years in the ring, winning gold medals at two Olympics and becoming the three-division (two-time undisputed) world champion in an undefeated professional career.
On Thursday night, she showed another side of her championship courage by surviving two tough rounds in her MMA debut before turning the fight her own way. she won a TKO victory in the third round of a special showcase featured against Brittney elkin at PFL 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Shields isn’t the first professional boxer to win an MMA fight. She’s not even the first in her gym, as she trains with the same team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is home to Holly holm, a former boxing champion who won the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. But Holm also had kickboxing training. When Shields entered JacksonWink MMA seven months ago, she was essentially an empty canvas in her new sport.
Shields, the undisputed junior middleweight world champion and three-belt middleweight champion – and the # 2 boxer in the ESPN women’s boxing rankings pound for pound – is 11-0 in the sport and now 1. -0 in its new. To get that victory, Shields showed off the fruits of all the training hours she put in at the gym – then challenged the coaches who had her groomed.
After being taken down and controlled on the canvas for much of the first two laps – but never absorbing any significant damage – Shields landed some powerful punches at the start of the third, then sprawled across the canvas. to repel a withdrawal attempt. But Shields chose to keep the fight there, dealing damage from first position. “The coach kept saying, ‘If you put her on the ground, let her get up,'” Shields said. “But I’m like ‘I’m not letting her down.’ Then she turned to me, I pushed my hips down again and kept hitting her. And then it was over. “
Now, let’s not get carried away by these successful beginnings. Shields’ opponent Elkin is a relatively inexperienced fighter who arrived with a 3-6 record, having been out of MMA for over two years. And Elkin succeeded with Shields for most of the fight, securing a full mount position in each of the first two rounds. Shields is a work in progress, but she has shown that she is definitely going to work, which sets her apart from some former boxing champions who have tried MMA. James toney, for example, spent the 18 seconds standing and didn’t land a single punch before being smothered in 2010 by the former UFC champion Randy Couture, who was almost 50 years old at the time.
But Shields, while far from ready to compete with top MMA fighters, has shown some skills to draw on. There is still a lot of construction to come, no doubt. But she is only 28 years old. And she has the heart of a champion.
“Look, I’ve never doubted winning a boxing match in my life. MMA is something like, I might lose that first fight,” Shields said. “I don’t want to lose. I’m going to try not to lose. And that’s what I did. I had a never give up attitude.… And when I heard my coaches say, ‘Let- get her up, ‘I was like,’ Hell no. ‘”