Claressa Shields discovered herself pinned on her again, caught in opposition to 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 may have went dwelling 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 essentially the most embellished fighter of her time.
“I bought myself going with these large proper fingers,” she mentioned. “My proper hand has by no means failed me.”
From the squared circle to the cage, Shields had her mighty hand take over — and had it raised in victory.
Shields made quick work of Brittney Elkin, and the combined martial arts novice proved she may need a future within the sport with a TKO win on Thursday night time in the principle occasion of a Skilled Fighters League card.
“I am not dropping this combat,” the undefeated boxer mentioned.
Shields proved in her 155-pound light-weight combat she’s simply as adept at unleashing a beating in combined martial arts. She shook off a gradual first two rounds earlier than she bought Elkin on the bottom and wanted a couple of heavy photographs to trigger the decisive harm. She earned the win with a proper hand from the highest at 1:44 of the third spherical.
“I really feel like I’m dreaming. That is loopy,” she mentioned.
Shields ditched among the flamboyant costumes she’s worn in boxing (the place she’s 11-0) for straight crimson trunks and prime. She nonetheless wore her hair in a blue ponytail to lift consciousness to the clear water combat that is gone on for years in her Michigan hometown.
She already gained 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 Best Lady Of All Time,
No less than 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 saved hitting her, saved hitting her,” Shields mentioned. “I instructed myself, hold hitting her till she quits.”
Shields gained 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 heart Dwight Howard wrote “Let’s go champ” on Instagram and actress Rosie Perez tweeted “Better 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 begin throughout and do not care,” mentioned Lewis, the Corridor of Fame linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. “Lot of individuals are afraid to begin over. They finish their careers, I am caught, I am good. However while you make that transition, you are chasing one thing else. I feel she’s chasing one thing else and simply that is good to see. I simply love her adapting to it.”
CEO Peter Murray mentioned Shields would combat yet another time this yr for PFL earlier than a call was made for 2022.
“That is simply her first step to show to herself that she has actually what it takes to make the ’22 season,” Murray mentioned.
One potential dream match for 2022 within the PFL would have Shields combat 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 expect that is a pay-per-view combat,” Murray mentioned. “That begins tonight.”
In contrast to different MMA organizations, the PFL makes use of a season format, with playoffs and a championship combat night time that awards a $1 million prize for every of its six weight class champions. 4 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 combat.
Murray mentioned that PPV is on the horizon for PFL. Thursday’s card aired on ESPN2, and the league has but to resolve when or the place it can stage its championship combat night time. The PFL held its two earlier finales on Dec. 31 in New York. Murray mentioned the combat card may come earlier than December.