ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – From the squared circle to the cage, Claressa Shields merely cannot lose.
Shields made quick work in her MMA debut of Brittney Elkin, and the two-time boxing gold medalist proved she may need a future within the sport with a TKO win on Thursday evening in the principle occasion of a Skilled Fighters League card.
“I’m not shedding this combat,” the undefeated boxer stated.
A two-time Olympic gold winner, Shields proved in her 155-pound combat she’s simply as adept at unleashing a beating in combined martial arts. She shook off a gradual first two rounds earlier than she acquired Elkin on the bottom and wanted just a few heavy photographs to trigger the decisive harm. She earned the win with a proper hand from the highest at 1:44 of the third spherical.
“I really feel like I’m dreaming. That is loopy,” she stated.
Shields ditched among the flamboyant costumes she’s worn in boxing (the place she’s 11-0) for straight crimson trunks and high. She nonetheless wore her hair in a blue ponytail to lift consciousness to the clear water combat that’s gone on for years in her hometown of Flint, Michigan.
She already received the sunshine middleweight, middleweight and tremendous middleweight crowns in her boxing profession and turn into the quickest fighter in historical past — both male or feminine — to turn into a three-division world champion. Shields solely began her MMA coaching in December on the Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Her inexperience confirmed early. Shields saved her cool and labored her method again after Elkin took her down in opposition to the cage early within the first spherical. Elkin mounted Shields and pounded her within the face — the Olympian taking extra of a beating in a single spherical than she did over most of her professional boxing profession.
Shields’ conditioning got here into play, with the 5-minute MMA rounds three greater than a typical spherical in boxing. Elkin landed an enormous proper early within the second that did little to rattle Shields. Elkin went again to the mount and saved the profession boxer on her again. Shields escaped bother late within the second and swung and missed on a wild proper earlier than she linked on extra head photographs that set the stage for the third spherical.
“I simply had a by no means stop perspective,” Shields stated.
Shields received Olympic gold in 2012 in London and repeated the feat 4 years later in Rio de Janiero.
Shields reduce a large swath of followers: 76ers heart Dwight Howard wrote “Let’s go champ” on Instagram and actress Rosie Perez tweeted “Better of luck tonight.” Ray Lewis, who has an fairness stake in PFL and serves on its advisory board, watched cageside and admired Shields’ resolution to shift to MMA whereas nonetheless within the prime of her boxing profession.
“The genius of champions making transitions is they begin throughout and don’t care,” stated Lewis, the Corridor of Fame linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. “Lot of individuals are afraid to begin over. They finish their careers, I’m caught, I’m good. However while you make that transition, you’re chasing one thing else. I believe she’s chasing one thing else and simply that’s good to see. I simply love her adapting to it.”
CEO Peter Murray stated Shields would combat yet one more time this 12 months for PFL earlier than a call was made for 2022.
“That is simply her first step to show to herself that she has actually what it takes to make the ’22 season,” Murray stated.
One potential dream match for 2022 within the PFL would have Shields combat Kayla Harrison. Harrison, a two-time Olympic judo gold medalist, has emerged because the face of PFL. Harrison (9-0) fights once more on June 25.
“We expect that’s a pay-per-view combat,” Murray stated. “That begins tonight.”
Not like different MMA organizations, the PFL makes use of a season format, with playoffs and a championship combat evening that awards a $1 million prize for every of its six weight class champions. 4 fighters every in PFL’s featherweight and males’s light-weight division superior on Thursday.
Shields was billed as preventing in PFL’s first showcase combat.
Murray stated that PPV is on the horizon for PFL. Thursday’s card aired on ESPN2, and the league has but to resolve when or the place it should stage its championship combat evening. The PFL held its two earlier finales on Dec. 31 in New York. Murray stated the combat card may come earlier than December.
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