Decorated boxing world champion and two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields made major waves across the mixed martial arts community last night, as she put pen to paper on a deal to transition from the squared-circle, under the banner of the PFL (Professional Fighters League).
The 10-0 Flint, Michigan native claimed gold at the London and Rio de Janeiro summer Olympic Games, and in a four-year professional career, has been unmatched. Claiming titles across the light, super, and middleweight divisions, Shields has held gold for the WBC, WBO, WBA, and IBF to name a few in that short time period.
Constantly linked with an eventual transition to mixed martial arts, the 25-year-old puncher follows in the recent footsteps of former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum who also inked a deal to link up with the Ray Sefo led promotion.
Floated as potential future opposition for both Bellator featherweight best, Cris Cyborg, and current UFC two-weight world champion, Amanda Nunes, Shields will, in fact, begin her journey in professional mixed martial arts in the same surrounding as a fellow two-time Olympic gold medalist, Judoka expert, Kayla Harrison.
Failing to close the door on her professional career in boxing, Shields clarified that she’ll continue her career whilst honing her craft in mixed martial arts before an eventual debut.
“I’m still gonna box and do MMA at the same time,” Shields told ESPN MMA reporter, Brett Okamoto, recently. “I could box in my sleep. That’s not something that I really have to worry about. I’m gonna spend a lot of time learning and just growing in MMA, but I’m still gonna accept my mandatory challenges in boxing. I’m gonna fight those girls. I’m gonna beat them, but I plan on having maybe two or three boxing matches and two to three MMA fights next year.“Delving into the reasoning for her move to MMA,
Shields explained how professional boxing doesn’t necessarily bring with it an equal playing field, particularly for female competitors.
“I feel like I’ve had fights in boxing that have captured the sports world, just women’s boxing isn’t treated equally,” Shields explained. “Every MMA league, they have women fighters main event. The PFL give women a chance to fight for a million dollars just like they give men a chance to fight in a league for a million dollars. In boxing, there aren’t those kinds of opportunities for women.“
“You have two or three of us that are getting paid good money, and then the rest of them are kind of just like opponents, and they don’t really have a large following and a big backing,” Shields said. “In MMA, in the PFL, you create your own destiny, and that’s what I want to do. I created my own destiny in boxing an as far as in becoming a two-time Olympic champ, starting from the Junior Olympics to the real Olympics, world championships and now being a professional world champion. I just wanna test myself really.“
Given Shield’s high-profile signature to PFL, fans and pundits immediately questioned the possibility of a matchup of Olympic standouts; Shields and the above-mentioned, Harrison, who has established an eye-catching 7-0 professional mixed martial arts record since her move to the sport back in the summer of 2018.
With plans to ultimately stand opposite her friend and fellow Olympic two-time gold medal victor, Shields detailed how she had actually contacted Harrison after penning her deal with the PFL and plans to bring her to the forefront of her thought process before the culmination of next year.
“Just me being who I am, of course, I want to fight the best,” Shields said. “Right now, she’s (Kayla Harrison) the best. She’s the winner of the PFL league. She won the million dollars, and I was able to watch all of her fights leading up to that not because I was getting ready to come to the PFL, but because I’m a fan of hers and we’re actually friends. We’ve been at both Olympics together. We know each other.“
“I actually texted her this morning, so of course that’s who I’m looking at down the line, but then again like I said, the PFL — you create your own destiny,” Shields said. “Anything can happen on any given night so we can be in a tournament in 2022 or 2023 and be fighting, and she loses. It’s like anything can happen, so I’m just gonna take it one fight at a time. I’m not initially thinking of Kayla Harrison right off the bat, but she will be in my thoughts towards the end of 2021.” (H/T MMA Junkie)