Claressa Shields knows the pressure, the nerves that come before a fight.
Winning a pair of Olympic gold medals in boxing will. Ditto for becoming a three-class champion, the undisputed middleweight and light middleweight title holder and, quite possibly, the tallest woman in boxing history – the self-dubbed tallest woman in boxing. all time, aka GWOAT. All at 26, nothing less.
With credentials like hers, high expectations ahead of her debut in mixed martial arts, turning into a sport she only officially started training six months ago. Heading against the unannounced Brittney Elkin for Thursday’s PFL 4 event at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, NJ, which will air on ESPN2, she understands why so many people expect great things from her. But she doesn’t feel the need to go out there and get a highlight win. A 1-0 mark in MMA once it leaves the Jersey Shore will do just fine.
âI made a decision very early on, when I decided to do MMA, I wouldn’t pressure myself like I do in boxing because it’s so new,â Shields recently told The Post via Zoom. âAnd I know everyone expects me to go out and, I don’t know, to be this super spectacular MMA fighter, but that’s not possible. I think right now, for me, it’s just getting my first âWâ and then moving forward from there. “.
The fight with Elkin (3-6, 1 finish) is more about Shields having the chance to apply all the skills she has added to her unrivaled pugilism since starting her training at the famous Jackson Wink MMA Academy. in Albuquerque, NM. Mich., From Michigan, had to train in the same room and learn from former UFC champions Jon Jones and Holly Holm, herself a former boxer who successfully crossed over.
It took boxing champion Shields (11-0, 2 KOs in the ring), who found time to train for four weeks specifically for her league win over Marie-Eve Dicaire in March, well outside her comfort zone. Practice kicks had hardly ever entered the equation before. Grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Forget that. Who needed them when the only weapons needed were a pair of gloved fists?
But even though grappling was a disparate challenge to acclimatize to, Shields says she’s had the most fun so far in her MMA journey by soaking up this element of the sport.
âWhen I started to figure it out, I enjoyed jiu-jitsu and enjoyed wrestling a lot,â Shields said. âWrestling isâ¦ because I’m already a strong girl, but these are muscles I’ve never used before. Now I use these muscles and I see, ‘Oh, I got strong hips, and I got a strong back, and I got a strong [feel for] when I put you in melee inside. If I really want to hold you, I can hold you there because I know the grips and how to use body weight and stuff.
Shields attributes his childhood to Flint on an informal basis. This included fighting with her four siblings, who she said could never beat her when they were children.
âI was a tomboy. I’ve always wrestled with the guys who were on the wrestling team, âshe said, punctuating the glimpse of her youth with a laugh. “I never wrestled, but being just friends with them I had to know a little something so they didn’t make too much noise to me.”
Helpful wrestling and jiu-jitsu would likely come in handy against Elkin, who participates in grappling in addition to MMA. Shields’ first opponent also welcomed current PFL principal lady Kayla Harrison to the sport three years ago. Two-time gold medalist Judoka Harrison, a longtime friend of Shields dating back to when they were dominant Olympians for Team USA, leaned heavily on her grappling hook base to take out Elkin in under 3 and a half minutes.
It’s easy for most to dismiss Elkin as fodder to build shields because of the Harrison fight, but the contrast of styles in this classic attacking versus grappling scenario makes it less of a lamb versus showdown match than it does. does not appear. And Shields doesn’t look past her opponent in any way, although she does appreciate what it means for people to expect great things immediately from a newbie in MMA.
âI hate that people keep me at such a high level, but I put myself here,â Shields adds. âI also hold myself to a high standard, but not too high when it comes to MMA because I know that for me the time and work has not been invested yet. Now, I’ve worked a lot in the last seven months, but it’s still only seven months and it’s five different arts.
Winner or loser, Shields knows she’ll need time to progress in her training to be ready to compete in a women’s lightweight regular season for the PFL, whether next year or in 2023. She chats with him. the league has a potential second MMA fight in August, when the league holds its playoff events, but also has plans to compete in the ring towards the end of the year.
But even now, the confident Shields believe there are a lot of women competing in this year’s 10-beating women squad. She was in Atlantic City last month when the 155-pounder competed, crippling 2019 PFL champion Harrison and runner-up Larissa Pacheco as the first two on the run. As for the other eight women, let’s just say there was a hungry glint in the eyes of the woman dubbed “T-Rex” at the prospect of taking on several, even at her current stage of MMA development.
âI was like ‘Wow there are a few that I could beat now,’â Shields said with a smile.
Does that mean she’s already stuck for the 2022 season? Not clear. This decision will be made with the important contributions of his coaches, Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn.
âIt’s not about beating a few, it’s about being able to beat it all,â Shields said of when is the right time to enter a season. âMe and my coaches are going, next year, to look at all the girls I could fight against, potentially, who are in the season, and we’ll take a look at each of them individually.
âAnd if we think I can beat all of them last, then we’ll go. But if they feel, ‘Hey we gotta work on this [or] we have to work on this before we start the season, I’m going to respect everything they say because they know MMA better than I do, whether I really like it or not.