Clares Shields, perhaps the world’s number one pound pound female boxer, will make her professional mixed martial arts debut in 2021.
Shields, a two-way undisputed world boxing champion, has signed an exclusive multi-year deal with PMA to promote MMA. The 25-year-old will not compete in the traditional “seasonal format” of the PFL in 2021, but intends to fight at least twice, with a view to a seasonal place in 2022. She will continue to box in 2021.
“I wanted to get tested,” Shields told ESPN during her transition to MMA. “I want to see if I can be a world boxing champion and a world MMA champion. That’s something I want to test myself on. I̵
A native of Flint, Michigan, Shields was a boxer for a gold medal for the United States at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. a competition consisting of one boxing match, one MMA match.
So far, Shields says she has attended “several” jiu-jitsu classes and has done some work with US Olympic wrestler Adeline Gray.
“I can say it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” Shields said of the grappling aspect of MMA. “I thought I would absolutely hate him. I thought that once she grabbed my leg, I would be disappointed and try to bite her or something, but that didn’t happen.”
The PFL has postponed its entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has plans to resume its 2021 season in April in Las Vegas. The promotion offers a 155-pound lightweight category for women and is led by 2019 winner Kayla Harrison. Harrison also won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 for the United States in judo. Shields told ESPN that she and Harrison were close friends, but would have no problem competing with each other if it ever made sense in the future. Harrison is 8-0 in MMA.
“I told MMA fans, I’m not just a speaker,” Shields said. “I know all these pursuers of influence are used to it. I’m the real deal. All I say I can do is put my best foot forward and do it. I haven’t lost a fight since I was on I am 17 years old and I am 25. I had 77 victories as an amateur, one loss, I am 10-0 as a professional.
“I don’t come to MMA to lose. The next time they see me in the cage, I’m going to have muscles coming out of my damn neck, training so hard to win.”
Information from Brett Okamoto and Mike Rothstein of ESPN contributed to this report.