Claressa Shields begins MMA career: ‘I’ve never kicked anybody in my life’

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
0 Comments

Claressa Shields already reigns over boxing with two Olympic gold medals and professional titles in three weight classes.

Her next world to conquer is mixed martial arts.

Shields has signed with the Professional Fighters League in a quest to become the first woman to hold simultaneous titles in both MMA and boxing, she told The Associated Press on Monday. She will make her debut next year, and she hopes to have two or three MMA fights along with two boxing matches during 2021 before she attempts to win the PFL title in 2022.

“I’m not trying to do this for show,” Shields told the AP. “I’m really taking this seriously. I’m not thinking that just because my hands are better than everybody else that I’ll win. I’m really going to strengthen the things that I’m weak at.”

Shields realizes she faces a steep learning curve as she prepares to fight as a 155-pound lightweight in the PFL. She is still relatively new to jiu-jitsu, wrestling and kickboxing: “I’ve never kicked anybody in my life, not even in a street fight!” she said.

But Shields is a singular athlete with a work ethic to match, and she is confident in her ability to master other forms of hand-to-hand combat with the proper training.

”I’m not going in here knowing I’m going to beat these girls just because I can outbox them,” Shields said. “I’m going to have to get away from takedowns. Take some kicks. Make some kicks. Take some knees. I have to get used to getting grabbed, because in boxing, when a girl grabs me, I dang near want to slam her.

“I really feel that me against any other woman, no matter what it is, she’s not going to be able to beat me.”

Many fighters have tried the move Shields is making in both directions. Champion boxer Holly Holm famously changed sports and knocked out Olympic judo bronze medalist Ronda Rousey to win a UFC belt, while Conor McGregor parlayed his UFC success into one wildly lucrative boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.

Olympic champions in judo (Kayla Harrison) and wrestling (Henry Cejudo) authored successful MMA transitions.

Shields’ interest in trying MMA has been rumored for years, and she also expressed interest in taking on UFC champions Amanda Nunes and Cris “Cyborg” Justino in a boxing ring. Now that the talk is real, Shields is eager to do the work necessary to make her bold dreams into reality.

“I just want to be great at everything,” she said. “I hate losing. I haven’t lost a fight since I was 17 years old. I’m not here for a good time. I’m here to make my presence known to everybody I get in the cage with. You’re not getting in there and just fighting against a boxer. You’re getting in there against one of the greatest women’s combat sports athletes to ever live.”

Shields’ family reacted with varying degrees of disbelief when she told them about her decision over Thanksgiving. Her mother didn’t believe it, and her sister angrily warned Shields against trying to fight men (that’s not happening) — but her father and boyfriend both were excited for her.

Shields, from Flint, Michigan, hasn’t settled on a training regimen or a home MMA gym, but she wants “to train with some of the best MMA fighters and coaches (to) speed up my process,” she said.

She has spoken to former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones about training with him in Albuquerque, and she will talk to other MMA stars about training dates. Shields said she will rely on her trainers to tell her when she’s ready to step into a cage.

Shields intends to work her way up in competition level in 2021 with a series of one-off PFL fights. The promotion normally conducts a yearly tournament with a $1 million grand prize, and Shields hopes to be in the 2022 field.

Shields’ last boxing match was in January, but she isn’t quitting that sport: She plans to announce a new date soon for her postponed junior middleweight world title fight with Marie-Eve Dicaire in which she will attempt to unify four 154-pound championship belts.

Shields is already the undisputed middleweight champion, and she wants to become the first female boxer to hold that distinction in two weight classes. Shields is 10-0 as a pro boxer, and she isn’t worried about the time she’ll spend on MMA interfering with her boxing career.

“I can box in my sleep,” she said with a laugh. “That’s what I was born to do. Boxing is just in me. I’ll never forget how to box. Even when I’m 80 years old, a girl better not try me, because she’ll still be in for a whole heap of trouble. … When you get older, you learn how to train smarter, not harder. To train smart will be what I try to do throughout my whole MMA career.”

Shields insists her primary motivation is to win belts in both sports, but she has acknowledged frustration with the boxing industry’s inability to make her a star on the level of her male counterparts or MMA’s top female athletes.

“I’m not upset with boxing, but boxing has always been a sexist sport,” Shields said. “Until they start treating the women fairly, women’s boxing will never go to where we’re supposed to go. Even men’s boxing is at a standstill right now. That’s because they just won’t be fair, and the boxing gods see that.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun
Getty
0 Comments

Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
Getty
0 Comments

World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!