Claressa Shields discovered herself pinned on her again, caught towards a cage and she or he absorbed so many strikes to the top that the undefeated boxer appeared getting ready to defeat in MMA.
“I could have went home with an L like that,” Shields mentioned.
So, she dug deep in her debut for the fortitude that took her from Flint, Michigan, to Olympic gold — twice — after which a professional profession that made her probably the most embellished fighter of her time.
“I got myself going with those big right hands,” she mentioned. “My right hand has never failed me.”
From the squared circle to the cage, Shields had her mighty hand take over — and had it raised in victory.
Shields made brief work of Brittney Elkin, and the combined martial arts novice proved she might need a future within the sport with a TKO win on Thursday night time in the principle occasion of a Professional Fighters League card.
“I’m not losing this fight,” the undefeated boxer mentioned.
Shields proved in her 155-pound light-weight struggle she’s simply as adept at unleashing a beating in combined martial arts. She shook off a sluggish first two rounds earlier than she obtained Elkin on the bottom and wanted just a few heavy photographs to trigger the decisive injury. She earned the win with a proper hand from the highest at 1:44 of the third spherical.
“I feel like I am dreaming. This is crazy,” she mentioned.
Shields ditched a number of the flamboyant costumes she’s worn in boxing (the place she’s 11-0) for straight crimson trunks and high. She nonetheless wore her hair in a blue ponytail to boost consciousness to the clear water struggle that is gone on for years in her Michigan hometown.
She already received the sunshine middleweight, middleweight and tremendous middleweight crowns in her boxing profession and was the quickest fighter in historical past — both male or feminine — to develop into a three-division world champion. Shields solely began her MMA coaching in December on the Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Shields calls herself the GWOAT — sure, the Greatest Woman Of All Time,
At least in boxing.
In MMA, her inexperience confirmed early. Elkin took Shields down early within the first spherical and mounted her as she pounded the rookie within the face. Shields took extra of a beating in a single spherical than she did over most of her professional boxing profession.
Elkin landed an enormous proper early within the second that did little to rattle Shields. Elkin went again to the mount and saved the profession boxer on her again. Shields escaped bother late within the second and swung and missed on a wild proper earlier than she linked on extra head photographs that set the stage for the third spherical.
“I kept hitting her, kept hitting her,” Shields mentioned. “I told myself, keep hitting her until she quits.”
Shields received Olympic gold in 2012 in London and repeated the feat 4 years later in Rio de Janiero.
Shields minimize a large swath of followers: 76ers middle Dwight Howard wrote “Let’s go champ” on Instagram and actress Rosie Perez tweeted “Best of luck tonight.” Ray Lewis, who has an fairness stake in PFL and serves on its advisory board, watched cage-side and admired Shields’ resolution to shift to MMA whereas nonetheless within the prime of her boxing profession.
“The genius of champions making transitions is they start all over and don’t care,” mentioned Lewis, the Hall of Fame linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. “Lot of people are afraid to start over. They end their careers, I’m stuck, I’m good. But when you make that transition, you’re chasing something else. I think she’s chasing something else and just that’s good to see. I just love her adapting to it.”
CEO Peter Murray mentioned Shields would struggle another time this yr for PFL earlier than a call was made for 2022.
“This is just her first step to prove to herself that she has really what it takes to make the ’22 season,” Murray mentioned.
One potential dream match for 2022 within the PFL would have Shields struggle Kayla Harrison. Harrison, a two-time Olympic judo gold medallist, has emerged because the face of PFL. Harrison (9-0) fights once more on June 25.
“We think that’s a pay-per-view fight,” Murray mentioned. “That starts tonight.”
Unlike different MMA organizations, the PFL makes use of a season format, with playoffs and a championship struggle night time that awards a $1 million prize for every of its six weight class champions. Four fighters every in PFL’s featherweight and males’s light-weight division superior on Thursday.
Shields was billed as combating in PFL’s first showcase struggle.
Murray mentioned that PPV is on the horizon for PFL. Thursday’s card aired on ESPN2, and the league has but to determine when or the place it can stage its championship struggle night time. The PFL held its two earlier finales on Dec. 31 in New York. Murray mentioned the struggle card may come earlier than December.