Claressa Shields is a patient woman. At 26, already one of the most accomplished female combat sports athletes in history, she can afford to be.
Yet she is as ambitious, as motivated as she is patient.
Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in boxing and professional world champion in the sport in three weight classes, is now pursuing a career in MMA. In that pursuit, the Flint, Mich. Native trains in Albuquerque in Jackson-Wink.
Shields (1-0) is scheduled to play her second MMA fight on Wednesday against Abigail Montes (2-0) of Mexico on a Professional Fighters League card in Hollywood, Florida.
At a Zoom press conference on Monday, Shields was asked if – given her status in combat sports – she felt offended fighting Montes, 21, and an unknown relative.
Shields pointed out that Montes has one more MMA win than she does. âMe and Abby are tied, if you ask me,â she said. âAnd she’s probably supposed to be considered better than me because she has better kickboxing.
“… One of the main reasons I signed with the PFL is to be able to fight against girls who are at my level and not have to jump to fight the champions right away, because I still have a lot to learn. “
In terms of the need for patience, Shields’ MMA debut in June on a PFL card against Brittney Elkin (3-6 at the time) was Exhibit A. His inexperience laid bare, Shields spent most of the first two. turns on the back.
But in the third, after fending off another takedown attempt, she knocked out Elkin with punches and won by TKO (ground-and-pound).
Shields thinks she’s a much better MMA fighter now than she was in June.
âI learned on the job and I’m getting better and better,â she said. “… I’m taught arm bars and stuff, and I’m taught how to get out of it.” They show me bare chokes in the back, and I do very well in wrestling and get into good positions.
âIt’s stuff that confused me. Now I feel really good doing them, and it just gives me more confidence for the future.
Montes, for his part, expects to face a better Shields than Elkin did in June. Yet, she said on Monday, the âmixedâ mixed martial arts cannot be mastered in the short time Shields has trained for the sport.
“It’s complicated,” the Guadalajara fighter said of the transition Shields is making. âIt’s very complicated.â¦ You can’t improve everything that is so complicated in five or six months.
Shields has the advantage of training with two accomplished boxers turned MMA fighters in Jackson-Wink’s Holly Holm (14-5) and Arlene Blencowe (14-8), and under the watchful eye of renowned coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn.
But Montes does not concede anything. She trained for this fight with well-respected trainer Antonio McKee at Team Bodyshop in Lakewood, Calif., And fought with Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, a former UFC champion and current Bellator who holds a victory over Holm.
Working with the heavy-handed, large-bodied Cyborg, Montes said, was optimal preparation for Wednesday’s fight, which will be contested at a “catch weight” of 160 pounds.
âTraining with someone at this level makes me feel more secure,â she said.
Unlike Holm, a boxing world champion who left the ring before winning a UFC MMA title, Shields is looking to hold titles in both sports simultaneously. She is due to defend her world middleweight boxing title on December 11 against Slovenian Ema Kozin (21-0-1, 11 KOs) in Birmingham, England. Again, however, there is no rush.
âI would love to be a PFL Champion and Boxing Champion at the same time in 2023 or 2024, anytime,â she said. ââ¦ This is very important, because I wouldn’t do both (otherwise).
ELSEWHERE: Albuquerque MMA bantamweight John Dodson’s long-awaited and long-delayed return to competition ended in loss on Saturday.
Dodson (21-13) lost by unanimous decision to Cody Gibson (18-7) on an XMMA card in Miami.
Dodson, who fought twice for the UFC flyweight title, had not been in the cage since August 2020. After being released by the UFC, he should have fought Gibson in July but s ‘is withdrawn after sustaining minor injuries in a car accident.