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Current boxing champ and upcoming Professional Fighters League competitor Claressa Shields weighed in on several MMA topics including Conor McGregor.
In a recent interview with the Betway Insider blog, Shields (10-0 Box, 2 KOs) spoke about a litany of issues including training for her MMA debut, transitioning back and forth between boxing and MMA, working with Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White should Zuffa Boxing come to fruition and more. Among other areas of discussion, Shields weighed in on Conor McGregor, his thoughts on her as well as his potential rematch with Dustin Poirier.
Before she steps into the PFL cage in June, Shields will look to defend her WBC and WBO titles while hunting for more against Canada’s Marie-Eve Dicaire (17-0, 0 KOs) in March. The two-time Olympic gold medalist boxer plans on remaining in boxing while engaging in MMA bouts, which would differ from the approach of former boxing champ turned UFC champ Holly Holm.
“Holly accomplished a whole lot in boxing,” the 25-year-old Shields said proudly. “Also, she was older than me when she transitioned, so I think she wanted to take advantage of the time she had left. She decided to just focus on MMA. For me, I’m a lot younger, and have been boxing my whole life, so it’s not like I can just give it up.”
Although she was brought up in the sport and loves it dearly, training MMA has been an entirely new world for the champ.
“[Boxing’s] been pretty boring, to be honest,” Shields admitted. “MMA has so many different disciplines and I have three different coaches, for three different reasons, but they’re all working to mold me into the fighter who I am supposed to be. Boxing training is: jab, right, uppercut, hook; there are no knees, no superman punches, no kicks to the head, no takedowns, no sprawling. [Boxing] is less complicated but not as much fun.”
It has not always been easy for the woman known as “T-Rex,” who has admittedly struggled with developing parts of her ground game after being exclusively a striker for much of her life.
“It’s been a very humbling learning curve for one,” Shields explained. “And then two: it opened my mind and body up to what I can actually do, like all the punches I can throw, how my body can work together; jab, right hand, hook, kick, side kick, leg kick, knee. There are so many combinations, and then you can add in punches with takedowns and you have to avoid these things too, there’s just so much to learn.
“Sometimes I tell the coaches, ‘Hey, I’m having a brain freeze, can we just focus on five or six things,’ but it’s like I’m learning everything so fast that coaches want to teach me more and more,” she continued. “Kicking, takedowns and avoiding takedowns has been the easiest thing I’ve learned and I thought that would be super hard, especially the wrestling part…I kind of thought that wrestling would frustrate me but it hasn’t. The hardest thing is jiu-jitsu for me. I do it every day and do it over and over again. Fighting on the ground is hard. I’m so used to standing up, and now I’m on the ground and it does not feel as good.”
When she was starting her training at Jackson-Wink MMA alongside greats like Jon Jones and the aforementioned Holm, she posted on social media of her journey. Early on, McGregor chimed in with a comment on her post, wishing her well and giving her some advice for how to best develop her MMA balance and grappling acumen. Although surprised at the unsolicited guidance, the boxer was grateful for what he had to say.
“It was actually very welcoming,” she said. “To me, Jon Jones is the GOAT in MMA, but Conor McGregor was considered the GOAT once upon a time too and they’re both great in their own right. I just feel when Conor reached out, I feel like in a way he actually cared and he was wishing me good luck and that’s what I appreciated most. He didn’t have to give me any advice, he could have just seen it and kept on, but instead he was like, ‘I’m going to give out this advice,’ and it was great. I took it, I use it and hopefully everything goes as it’s supposed to go.”
Shields was ready to return the favor, giving McGregor some tips should he face Poirier for a third time. McGregor suffered a second-round knockout loss to Poirier in January, and Shields at least partially attributes it to McGregor’s mindset going into the contest.
“Yeah, Conor can avenge [the loss] but it’s going to take some hard work,” she stated. “He’s been out of the MMA cage for a while, I know he had his last fight but before his last fight he’d probably been out two or three years. I would say he needs to get out of the boxing mind frame to win that fight. He had his front foot too forward, too much weight on his leg, more like a boxer’s stance. It’s like he needs to get back to having light feet and [being] quick and explosive, using all his attributes, not just his punches; punches, kicks, knees…he needs to get back being creative.”
The boxing queen was ready to state that her advice was not merely “armchair quarterbacking,” and that it may be more difficult to overcome than it seems on its surface.
“But I tell you what,” Shields professed, “it’s hard to do. It’s hard to cut off the boxing switch and cut on the MMA switch. When you’re doing both it’s hard, you have to be very mentally strong and say, ‘this is MMA, everything goes,’ and then you have to click that button and go to boxing and say, ‘this is boxing, there are rules.’ So, it’s hard, and I can just imagine that after being out of the cage for so long that his mind was adjusting and still looking to land those big shots.
“He probably didn’t generate it in his mind, he needs to go [in] his mind and click on the ‘everything’ switch and use every part of his body as a weapon. I know he was boxing against Floyd [Mayweather] but he needs to cut off the boxing switch and focus strictly on MMA for at least three or four months,” Shields concluded.
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