Claressa Shields is already a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a two-weight world champion in boxing. But she’s looking to add even more accolades to her resume by exploring a potential crossover into the UFC.
First, the 24-year-old Michigan native looks to add a third boxing world title this weekend when she faces Ivana Habazin in Atlantic City, N.J. Just a few weeks ago, she was sitting cageside to witness Amanda Nunes defend her UFC title against Germaine de Randamie.
Backstage before the event took place, Shields spoke about her desire to face Nunes in a pair of fights — one in boxing and another in MMA — and according to her promoter, it’s not just lip service in hopes of gaining some attention.
“Claressa wants to be a two-sport star,” Dmitry Salita from Salita Promotions told MMA Fighting. “In between fights, she did do some training, wrestling training, and some UFC-type training. Obviously, boxing is her domain, but Claressa has said she’d do a fight in boxing and a fight in the UFC with Amanda.
“It would obviously take time for Claressa to develop and get better in that sport. I think what makes it so attractive is that Amanda Nunes is a striker. Most of her significant wins have been because of her striking ability, her power and her precision, and her ability to figure out situations and land the big power punch. That’s why this is such an intriguing matchup.”
Shields previously struck up a friendship with former UFC champion Cris Cyborg, and there would be no shortage of top MMA coaches who would jump at the chance to work with an athlete of her caliber.
Of course, she wouldn’t be the first boxing champion to crossover into MMA, but Salita promises there’s just something special about Shields that separates her from the rest of the pack.
“Claressa is a two-time Olympic gold medalist,” Salita said. “She’s the undisputed middleweight world champion, unified undisputed middleweight world champion. She’s going to fight for a third division world title against Ivana Habazin on Showtime, and if she wins, she’s going to be the fastest fighter in the history of the sport — man or woman — to win three division titles in under 11 fights.
“So obviously, Claressa takes her career very seriously. She’s very dedicated to her training. She’s dedicated to being the best. She is very serious is about being undefeated in the boxing ring, and when the time comes in the Octagon, or whatever domain the MMA fights happen in, she wants to be a two-sport star.”
UFC president Dana White previously confirmed conversations with Shields and her team, which was one of the reasons she was invited to attend UFC 245 last month. That only furthered rumors that a deal could potentially be struck for a crossover fight between two of the top women in combat sports.
“We’ve had some conversations about the UFC about this,” Salita explained. “Claressa’s managed by Mark Taffet, who was the head of HBO pay-per-view, he’s had a relationship with Dana [White]. Claressa wanted to see Amanda Nunes live and pour some more oil on the fire.
“She obviously wants the fight, and I think Amanda wants the fight as well. The way it takes place and under what rules is still to be discussed. Boxing is where we want to do it.”
While Nunes initially scoffed at the idea of crossing over to boxing to face Shields, Salita ultimately believes the attention an event of that magnitude would receive is just impossible to ignore.
“I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before,” Salita said. “I think it would be great for the sporting community, all together. Obviously, it would be tremendous exposure and paydays for both fighters, but also the effect of having such a big event with two female stars in combat sports would have a positive effect on the business of women’s combat sports and that goes into boxing and UFC.”