Claressa Shields Explains Decision To Choose PFL Over UFC
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields will be making her professional mixed martial arts debut in 2021, but she won’t be rushing herself into super fights just yet.
Earlier this month, Shields signed a contract with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), according to which, the undefeated boxing world champion will begin with two or three one-off fights at lightweight in 2021, before eventually competing in the tournament in the coming seasons.
Choosing The PFL Over The UFC
The GWOAT in boxing was previously in talks with UFC president Dana White, and also spoke about facing off with two division UFC champion Amanda Nunes in boxing and MMA contests, but she ended up signing with the PFL instead. Speaking to MMA Fighting, Shields explained her decision to choose the PFL over the UFC.
“It was just the conversation. It wasn’t like ‘Hey come and train a few months and then fight against the best girl we have at your weight,’” Shields said. “I feel like that’s unfair to me. It’s not giving me enough time to learn. If you’re talking about letting me train for two years and then fight against the best girl you have, alright cool.
“The conversation with Dana was almost like a one-fight deal kind of a little bit. With the PFL it was more like ‘let’s train, let’s start you off at this level and as you work your way up, the competition will get harder’ and then I would have a chance to fight in the PFL season in 2022. Also, I would be able to box also. So my boxing career isn’t just over because I’m doing MMA. I actually have a boxing match in February. It just hasn’t been announced yet. I still get to box and I’m not being rushed.”
For Shields, joining the PFL was an easy decision, in part because the promotion offered her a lucrative deal.
“It was a lucrative deal and a lucrative conversation,” Shield said. “It was a three-year deal. It’s like ‘Hey you come over here and fight two times and then go back to boxing.’ I’m a conqueror in everything I do and I’m a winner. So I want to put myself in a position to always win.”
More Opportunities in MMA
Despite conquering the world of boxing, Shields believes there are not enough opportunities for women in the sport in comparison to MMA. She also opened up on the attention she has been getting ever since signing with the PFL.
“I’ve gained over 22 or 23,000 followers via social media and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. All my numbers have went up,” Shields revealed. “I think I’ve been trending on Twitter. I’ve been trending on Google for the past three days. Just the support the MMA world has been giving me just transitioning over. There’s been some haters, for sure, but there are more people giving me support. I get the support in boxing but also, too, the opportunities just aren’t there.
“I haven’t fought since January. You see all these other guys, small time fighters who aren’t world champions fighting but these networks are giving me trouble about me being on the card. Giving me problems and not treating me equally.”
Troubling Times For Female Boxers
The boxing champion also highlighted the struggles of female boxers in the United States to get any TV coverage.
“On every MMA card, you see women on the card,” Shields said. “They don’t have to be main event but you see women be the main event, co-main event, be the undercard, you just see women fighting. In boxing in the USA, you’ll see me fighting on TV. You’ll see Mikaela Mayer fight on TV and she’s fighting on ESPN.
“But Premier Boxing Champions don’t have not one female fighter signed to their stable. DAZN has all the girls in the UK but here in the US it’s really just me and Mikaela and maybe Amanda Serrano, but she still has a hard time getting fights and getting put on TV networks. I’m not the only female going through this. There’s lots of females in America who are going through this.”
Training With Jon Jones And Holly Holm
Transitioning into MMA won’t be easy for Shields at 25 years old, and that is why she has been putting in the hours with former UFC champions Jon Jones and Holly Holm at Jackson Wink MMA, ahead of her debut next year.
“That’s why I’m here in Albuquerque with some of the best fighters and some of the best trainers,” Shields continued. “I feel like I’ve been able to spend three hours in the cage just learning from ‘Jonny Bones’ and just drilling with him, and I spent two hours to an hour with Holly Holm working on some kicks. She kicks so fast and so hard. It’s just showing me what the real deal stuff is.”
Can Claressa Shields succeed in the world of MMA?