Claressa Shields stepped out of her comfort zone and may soon learn whether or not it was a wise decision.
The boxing superstar turned mixed martial artist will make her MMA debut under the Professional Fighters League flag when she meets Brittney Elkin in the PFL 4 main event on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Shields, 26, enters the cage as a considerable favorite. Elkin has lost three fights in a row, most notably to the undefeated Kayla Harrison some three years ago. She last appeared at a No Mercy Extreme Fighting event in January 2019, when an injury resulted in a first-round technical knockout loss to Bobbi Jo Dalziel.
Ahead of Shields’ first assignment for the PFL, here are five things you might not know about her:
1. She blazed a trail in the classroom.
When Shields graduated from Flint Northwestern High School in 2013, she became the first member of her immediate family to do so.
2. No stage was too grand for her.
Shields was a two-time Olympic gold medalist (75 kilograms) and the first American boxer to achieve the feat in back-to-back Games. She first struck gold as a 17-year-old at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where she defeated Sweden’s Anna Laurell in the quarterfinals, Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova in the semifinals and Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova in the final. Shields repeated four years later at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. There, she bested Russia’s Yaroslava Yakushina in the quarterfinals, Kazakhstan’s Dariga Shakimova in the semifinals and Holland’s Nouchka Fontijn in the final.
3. Her story will someday appear on the big screen.
So compelling was Shields’ as a character that Hollywood took notice. “Flint Strong,” an upcoming biopic, will chronicle her rise from Flint, Michigan, to becoming an Olympic champion. Ryan Destiny will reportedly portray Shields in the movie. Principal photography was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
4. She excelled at her chosen profession.
“T-Rex” owns a perfect 11-0 record as a professional boxer. She became the only fighter in history, male or female, to hold all four major world titles—World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization—simultaneously in two weight classes.
5. She took her transition to MMA seriously.
Shields agreed to terms with the Professional Fighters League on a three-year contract in 2020, making the jump from boxing to mixed martial arts. She joined fellow former boxing champion Holly Holm at Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she began her formal MMA training. Shields has also worked with esteemed grappler Roberto Alencar, an International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation no-gi world champion.
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