On Monday night, undefeated boxing champion Claressa Shields made her MMA debut official when she signed with PFL. Her first fight is scheduled for April 2021.
As a three-division boxing champion, the 25-year-old Shields is among today’s elite. But even with her status, she still feels undervalued in the sport she’s excelled in for the last four years.
“I feel like I’ve had fights in boxing that have captured the sports world, just women’s boxing isn’t treated equally,” Shields told ESPN on Monday (transcript by MMA Junkie). “Every MMA league, they have women fighters main event.
“The PFL gives women a chance to fight for a million dollars just like they give men a chance to fight in a league for a million dollars. In boxing, there aren’t those kind of opportunities for women.
“You have two or three of us that are getting paid good money, and then the rest of them are kind of just like opponents, and they don’t really have a large following and a big backing,” she added. “In MMA, in the PFL, you create your own destiny, and that’s what I want to do.
“I created my own destiny in boxing and as far as in becoming a two-time Olympic champ, starting from the Junior Olympics to the real Olympics, world championships and now being a professional world champion. I just wanna test myself really.”
Shields has yet to book her first opponent, but she’s already welcoming the idea of a possible fight with fellow Olympian Kayla Harrison.
“I actually texted her this morning, so of course that’s who I’m looking at down the line,” she said. “But then again like I said, the PFL, you create your own destiny. Anything can happen on any given night so we can be in a tournament in 2022 or 2023 and be fighting, and she loses.
“It’s like anything can happen, so I’m just gonna take it one fight at a time. I’m not initially thinking of Kayla Harrison right off the bat, but she will be in my thoughts towards the end of 2021.”
Shields says she will continue to accept mandatory challengers in boxing while competing under PFL. She plans to take on “two to three” fights in both boxing and MMA for 2021.
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