Olympic boxing champion Claressa Shields made short work of Brittney Elkin, and the mixed martial arts novice proved she may have a future in the sport with a TKO win on Thursday night in the main event of a Professional Fighters League card.
“I’m not losing this fight,” the undefeated boxer said. “I got myself going with those big right hands. My right hand has never failed me.
Shields proved in her 155lbs lightweight fight she’s just as adept at unleashing a beating in mixed martial arts. She shook off a slow first two rounds before she got Elkin on the ground and needed a few heavy shots to cause the decisive damage. She earned the win with a right hand at 1:44 of the third round.
“I feel like I am dreaming. This is crazy,” she said.
Shields ditched some of the flamboyant costumes she’s worn in boxing (where she’s 11-0) for straight red trunks and top. She still wore her hair in a blue ponytail to raise awareness to the clean water fight that’s gone on for years in her hometown of Flint, Michigan.
She has already won the light middleweight, middleweight and super middleweight crowns in her boxing career and was the fastest fighter in history either male or female to become a three-division world champion. Shields only started her MMA training in December.
Shields calls herself the GWOAT, the Greatest Woman Of All Time, At least in boxing. In MMA, her inexperience showed early. Elkin took Shields down early in the first round and mounted her as she pounded the rookie in the face. Shields took more of a beating in one round than she did over most of her pro boxing career.
Elkin landed a big right early in the second that did little to rattle Shields. Elkin went back to the mount and kept the career boxer on her back. Shields escaped trouble late in the second and swung and missed on a wild right before she connected on more head shots that set the stage for the third round.
“I kept hitting her, kept hitting her,” Shields said. “I told myself, keep hitting her until she quits.”
Shields won Olympic gold in 2012 in London and repeated the feat four years later in Rio de Janiero.
Shields cut a wide swath of fans: Philadelphia 76ers center Dwight Howard wrote “Let’s go champ” on Instagram and actor Rosie Perez tweeted “Best of luck tonight.” NFL hall of famer Ray Lewis, who has an equity stake in PFL and serves on its advisory board, watched cage-side and admired Shields’ decision to shift to MMA while still in the prime of her boxing career.
“The genius of champions making transitions is they start all over and don’t care,” said Lewis. “Lot of people are afraid to start over. They end their careers, I’m stuck, I’m good. But when you make that transition, you’re chasing something else. I think she’s chasing something else and just that’s good to see. I just love her adapting to it.”
CEO Peter Murray said Shields would fight one more time this year for PFL before a decision was made for 2022. “This is just her first step to prove to herself that she has really what it takes to make the ‘22 season,” Murray said.
One potential dream match for 2022 in the PFL would have Shields fight Kayla Harrison. Harrison, a two-time Olympic judo gold medalist, has emerged as the face of PFL. Harrison (9-0) fights again on June 25.
“We think that’s a pay-per-view fight,” Murray said. “That starts tonight.”
Unlike other MMA organizations, the PFL uses a season format, with playoffs and a championship fight night that awards a $1m prize for each of its six weight class champions.