Flint's Claressa Shields set for second MMA bout; she plans to retire from boxing at 34

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Claressa Shields, the Flint dynamo who's a world-champion boxer many times over, is now set for her second mixed-martial-arts bout, Wednesday night in Florida.

But her portfolio is extending well beyond the ring, squared or otherwise, these days.

She will appear in the boxing movie, "Lola 2," playing Trina "Doomsday" Jackson, set for release sometime in 2022. She also makes a cameo in her own bio-pic, "Flint Strong," in which Ice Cube plays her coach. She's even set to drop her first rap single soon.

Claressa Shields

All that on top of her growing stockpile of sponsorships and endorsements.

"Those are more checks coming in," Shields told The Detroit News in a recent interview, taking a break from her strict training regimen, "on top of the purses."

Shields, 26, got her start in boxing, winning gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and the 2014 and 2016 World Championships. MMA has given her a bigger audience, and thus more exposure, more opportunity.

On Wednesday, Shields (1-0) faces Abigail Montes (2-0) in a Professional Fighters League bout, in Hollywood, Florida. It's the season-ending card for the PFL, but just the start for Shields.

In June, Shields beat Brittney Elkin by TKO in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for her MMA debut, after signing a multi-year contract in December to fight non-tournament bouts. She is targeting the circuit's 2023 tournament, and the $1-million top prize.

She's not ditching boxing, though. She returns to that ring Dec. 11 to defend her titles at 160 pounds. She'll fight Ema Kozin, in England, putting those belts — and her 11-0 pro boxing record — on the line.

Shields then has a camp to run, but will take all of January off — not much more than that.

"I want to accomplish as much as I can with the youth that I have," Shields said, laughing. "I can't be taking four, five, six, seven months off.

"I want to retire from boxing at 34."

Wait, what?

"I just feel like I want to be done," Shields said. "I've been boxing since I was 11, that's 23 years of fighting. I just want to be able to enjoy my earnings and actually be able to raise my kids and be around the kids, just spend time with my family. I've always been training.

"At 34, if I'm not retired, I'll only be fighting once a year. I believe by 34, I should be well off, accomplished everything I want, a mansion, a dream car, make sure everybody's got college tuition, things of that nature.

"At 34, I'll already have accomplished everything in boxing."

Shields figures she could be doing MMA beyond the age of 34. She considers boxing "way more dangerous" than MMA, because of the repeated punches to the head.

She acknowledged both are "brutal sports," but MMA is safer because the refs' won't let it get out of hand. If the fight needs to be called, Shields said, it will be called.

She said MMA is a tougher discipline, that requires way more training than boxing because of the all the different techniques. Boxing, yes, but also jiu-jitsu, wrestling, kickboxing, judo, karate and taekwondo, among them.

A typical day of training can last anywhere from four to six hours a day, in several segments. Boxing training days often cap at three hours, if that.

"Boxing, it's just boxing," Shields said. "If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be doing it.

"It's definitely been fun, but it's been different. I'm just happy that I'm getting a lot better."

It's weird to hear Shields talk about getting better, acknowledging she's not the best at something. She's been the best female boxer for some time.

Her first MMA fight, in contrast, felt different. She started a little slow.

She won by knockout in the third round.

"I was actually nervous," Shields said, chuckling. "I got nervous my first three boxing matches, and had never been nervous again.

"Watching the film, I can see I was thinking a lot instead of letting my hands go.

"I'm still gonna think, but I'll be way more calm."

Calm isn't a word that comes to mind when discussing Shields, who delivers mighty punches — and now kicks and more — in the ring. She packs quite a punch with the press, too, becoming a master of smack talk.

Take a recent exchange with TMZ, when she was asked about one day possibly fighting on a card with Jake Paul, the YouTube star turned actor turned fighter.

Shields was insulted, and in an interview with The News, explained why.

"It's very disrespectful to ask me that. Why would I have to fight on the undercard of Jake Paul?" Shields said ahead of two boxing matches (the first in Flint in March) and two MMA bouts. "As if I have to earn my stripes. He just skipped the process. I earned it.

"If Jake Paul wants to fight me ... I will gladly beat him up."

And cash that check.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984