It wouldn’t be the first time a boxing icon decided to make the leap to MMA.
Dozens have done it — most notably James Toney, Holly Holm, Chris Lytle, and Eric “Butterbean” Esch. But outside of perhaps Holm, none have seen the type of success that could eventually be captured by three-division world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Claressa Shields.
In early January, after defeating Ivana Habazin, Shields became the quickest boxer, male or female, to win world titles in three weight classes. The 24-year-old is the reigning undisputed female middleweight champion and unified WBC and WBO light middleweight champion. She also previously held the unified WBC and IBF female super middleweight titles from 2017 to 2018. At 10-0 with two wins by KO, Shields holds the record for becoming a two and three-weight world champion in the fewest professional fights. She is currently ranked as the world’s best active female middleweight.
Now, “T-Rex” is hoping to make that kind of immediate splash in the world of MMA.
During a press conference for her most recent boxing match, which she won by unanimous decision, Shields expressed her desire to make the jump to MMA by the end of this year.
“I will be having my first MMA match at the end of the year,” Shields said. “So, I got a lot of stuff that I got going on. I can do it all. I’m 24. I’m young, I’m hungry and I’ll fight whoever, whenever. I can’t wait to throw some elbows in MMA. It’s gonna be fun.”
Spoken like a true champion, Shields didn’t hesitate to also reinforce her desire to fight the scariest and most accomplished female MMA fighter to date — two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes. However, without having any MMA experience under her belt yet, Shields was savvy enough to challenge Nunes to a potential boxing match, not an MMA fight.
“For Amanda Nunes, yeah, come. Come,” Shields said. “She said she would fight me if they offer her a million dollars. Offer her $2 million. Just get her in the ring. Get her in the ring, just so they know I’m the baddest when it comes to throwing hands. Nobody can beat me in that.”
Claressa Shields got a good look at Nunes back in December 2019 at UFC245, where Nunes defended her bantamweight title against Germaine de Randamie.
— ClaressaT-rexShields (@Claressashields) December 14, 2019
The problem with a Shields-Nunes matchup lies in finding a weight for them to fight at. Nunes has not competed above 145 pounds in her MMA career, while Shields’ career-low in boxing is 154 pounds, which is where she was at for her title match against Habazin.
However, Shields’ promoter, Dmitriy Salita, says his client is ready as soon as UFC’s lead man, Dana White, decides to make a deal that will accommodate Nunes’ request for a big payday. Salita compared a boxing match between Shields and Nunes to that of the cross-promotional bout between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather in 2017 in that it would feature one of the UFC’s best strikers against an undefeated boxing sensation.
“This would probably be the biggest women’s sporting event of all time,” Salita told BoxingScene.com.
He likely isn’t wrong. But so far it sounds like Nunes is more interested in welcoming Shields into the octagon.
Nunes on Claressa Shields being here: She can come to my world, I'm an MMA fighter. If she wants to see me, I'll wrestle the shit out of you and finish you with a jiu-jitsu submission. We’ll see how she feels after that. #UFC245
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) December 15, 2019
To sharpen her MMA skills, Shields has begun to work with wrestler Adaline Gray. Word on the street is that Shields has looked excellent so far in her MMA training — not all that surprising for someone with her athletic ability.
So when might we see the Flint, Michigan, native make her MMA debut? Based on recent comments made by her camp and the analysis of many top MMA media members, it sounds like Shields will take an MMA fight within the next six months. Now, it’s unrealistic to think that her first fight will be against someone as seasoned as Nunes, but the potential female dream fight is something that will certainly be explored down the road if Shields is able to burst onto the scene in MMA as quickly as she did in boxing.
Do you think we will see Claressa Shields make her MMA debut in 2020?