'I can't wait': Flint boxing champion Claressa Shields joins world of MMA

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Flint boxing champion Claressa Shields is set to try her hand, or hands, at mixed martial arts.

The Professional Fighters League announced Tuesday it has signed Shields, who will make her MMA debut at some point in 2021 and will become a regular in the PFL in 2022. Shields will continue to box while she pursues her MMA career.

Claressa Shields

"What drew me to the PFL is that it is definitely a fighter-first organization, and I can't wait to be a part of that," Shields said in a statement. "Since turning pro, it has been my goal to be the GWOAT and to be a two-sport start like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. I want to go where no man or woman has gone and hold championships in both boxing and MMA at the same time.

"I can't wait to get to work."

She told TMZ later Tuesday that a prime motivator for making the move to MMA was money. Fighters can compete for prizes of up to $1 million; the money in women's boxing can't compete with that.

Shields, 25, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is 10-0 in the boxing ring since turning pro. She holds championships in three boxing divisions.

The PFL season begins April 23, with the regular season featuring five dates between April 29 and June 25.

Shields' deal with PFL is a multi-year contract.

She last fought in January, beating Ivana Habazin in unanimous decision in Atlantic City. The fight was to be in Flint in October 2019, but that was canceled when Shields' brother assaulted Habazin's trainer, sending him to the hospital, before the fight began. Shields' brother was later arrested.

A fight was scheduled for May 9 in Flint against Canada's Marie-Eve Dicaire, but that was canceled because of COVID-19. It hasn't been rescheduled.

"I am thrilled to announce that the PFL has signed Claressa Shields, a two-time Olympic boxing gold medalist and three-division pro boxing world champion," Peter Murray, CEO of the PFL, said in a statement.

"She has transcended sports and has become a global icon, and an inspiration to young athletes — male and female — all over the world.

"Claressa is an incredible human being, a bonafide star athlete, and has an amazing story."

The PFL was founded in 2018, and its bouts are shown on ESPN.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984