CLARESSA SHIELDS will attempt to juggle her career as the face of women’s boxing with a new venture into MMA.
The three-weight champion, who also has two Olympic Gold medals, has signed for the Professional Fighters League.
PFL have fighters compete in a fight-twice-in-one-night play-off system, with the winners advancing to the championship where they compete for a $1million (£750,000) cheque.
And Shields will make her debut in the promotion next summer, with plans to feature in their NFL-style season in 2022.
Here SunSport’s Jack Figg speaks to the 25-year-old boxing sensation, who reveals her plans to train with UFC legend Jon Jones and Holly Holm.
JACK FIGG: Claressa, why the move into MMA after such a dominant boxing career?
CLARESSA SHIELDS: Timing is everything and the conversation with PFL was very lucrative and very nice.
We had an understanding on what I stand for, what they stand for and it all kind of meshed together.
The conversation wasn’t like, ‘Hey, come over here, fight against our top girl, spend two months getting ready then go back to boxing’.
It was more, ‘Come over here, sign a three-year deal and trust us that you’re going to get fair and competitive matches and play a part in helping build your brand up’.
The PFL season is something that drew me to it too, it’s equal with the men and women who both get the chance to fight for a million dollars.
You can control your own destiny and that’s something that intrigued me.
JF: So, are you committing to MMA long-term?
CS: Well, three years, yeah. For right now.
After three years, we’ll see what happens, but I’m hoping I can learn so much this year and have great teaching and coaching that by 2022 I’ll be ready for the PFL full season.
JF: Are you training in MMA right now?
CS: I’ve been doing wrestling behind the scenes for a while now.
I fly out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, tomorrow to train with Jonny Bones [Jones] and Holly Holm and their wonderful team of coaches for 11 days.
That will be great training also.
I’m hitting the bag for five minutes and five rounds and working on my wrestling with no breaks.
It’s way different, when I get down to Albuquerque I think we’ll do more mixing it up, but I didn’t want to self-teach myself as I could teach myself bad habits.
JF: The JacksonWink gym in Albuquerque is prestigious, could that be your MMA team full-time?
CS: That’s a possibility. Right now I’m just seeing who I have the best chemistry with, who understands me.
I’ve heard great things about the gym myself. Jonny Bones and Holly Holm are great friends of mine and I think it will be a great camp.
For those who want to watch, go to my Claressa Shields GWOAT channel on YouTube. They can follow it behind the scenes.
JF: How will you manage you boxing and MMA career?
CS: I will fight February in boxing, then I plan on fighting towards the end of the year in boxing and fight in June in MMA.
But, then I don’t know when I’ll fight again in MMA. I’ll fight two fights in MMA but I don’t know exactly when.
I definitely plan on having two boxing matches and two MMA fights next year.
JF: You’re going from boxing superstar to MMA beginner, how is that feeling?
CS: Yeah, I’m starting over but I’m still strong, I still have boxing and a lot of girls who do MMA, they’re terrible at boxing.
I just have to catch up on the other things, wrestling, jiu jitsu, and the Muay Thai, kickboxing stuff.
But, having a boxing advantage that will definitely play in my favour in every fight that I have.
JF: If you become a champion in MMA, due to your boxing achievements, where does that leave your legacy?
CS: I think it leaves me in the top one or two combat fighters ever. As boxers do not come over to MMA and do well.
That’s known, it’s not a stereotype, it’s a fact. But I’m going to be the one to break that.
JF: Will you still train in MMA when you have a boxing match coming up?
CS: I can box in my sleep. That’s easy. I’m going to be doing my MMA training throughout, I won’t stop doing it.
I’m going to try and at least do it two or three times a week.
I train multiple times a day, it went from twice but now it’s three of four, depending on how I feel.
Boxing is the same repetitive work; bag drills, strengthening your core, pad work and now of course I can add MMA into my second session where it’s technical stiff and just learning.