If Claressa Shields calls for some MMA coaching, Cris Cyborg will answer.
The former UFC and Strikeforce champ and current Bellator title challenger said she’ll gladly train the boxing champ transition into her sport. She only cautions against taking on too much too soon.
“If it was my athlete, I would make some fights in MMA first,” Cyborg, who on Saturday faces champ Julia Budd at Bellator 238, told MMA Fighting.
Shields, 24, attended UFC 245 this past month with an eye on setting up a pair of fights – boxing and MMA – with Amanda Nunes. The two-division champ didn’t seem keen on either, promising to “wrestle the sh*t” out of the boxing champ if they fought in the cage.
Not long after the event, Cyborg said she got a call from Shields; the two had remained in touch after a training session in the square circle several years ago. Shields reiterated her desire to try MMA.
“I think with everything, she can be great,” Cyborg said. “And people are going to love her, too. If I’m able to help her – if I have the opportunity – for sure.”
Shields’ manager has said the boxing champ wants to become a two-sport star and believes a crossover fight would be huge for the combat sports industry. He also acknowledged Shields would need time before taking the sport head on.
Cyborg agrees with that assessment, but she repeatedly emphasized Shields’ youth and athletic ability as an asset in the potential shift.
“I think we need to see how fast she can catch (on to) stuff,” she said. “If we train together, how she practices and how fast she gets it. But young kids ... learn it very fast. She can use her boxing, which is amazing. She just needs some details and learn her jiu-jitsu and wrestling.”
Those disciplines are no small detail in the overall plan, of course. In the short time they spent together in the gym, Cyborg said she tried to teach Shields an armbar.
“She did OK, but she said, ‘I like to box,’” Cyborg remembers. “I said, ‘Me too.’”
UFC President Dana White has said he’s “not opposed” to the idea of pairing Shields and Nunes, though the UFC champ has pressing MMA business that he has not disclosed. Cyborg believes it’s more likely an MMA fight will materialize than a boxing match.
“If Amanda fights Claressa in the UFC, Amanda won’t have a choice,” Cyborg said. “She has to fight Claressa.”
Nunes has firmly established herself as an all-time great – and perhaps the greatest female MMA fighter of all time - with wins over champs Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, Holly Holm, Cyborg, and, most recently, Germaine de Randamie. If Shields manages to get a fight with the double-champ, Cyborg will support her.
“A young girl likes to do what she wants, and if (Shields) wants to fight Amanda and beat her, she should follow her heart and do her best,” she said.