Claressa Shields has no problem fighting on the same card as Jake Paul. But there’s no way she’ll let him headline over her.
Appearing on The MMA Hour, Shields was asked about comments she made at a PFL press conference in September regarding if she would ever take part in an event headlined by YouTuber-turned-boxing star Jake Paul. At the time, Shields warned not to “disrespect” her and that she would never fight on a Paul undercard. She elaborated on that response on Monday.
“What has Jake Paul done that’s so great to where he gets to be the main event pay-per-view on Showtime, but I don’t?” Shields said. “I gotta fight under him. That’s the thing, it’s like I actually earned my opportunity. They’re just giving it to him. They’re like, ‘Hey, you’re Jake Paul, you’ve got a million subscribers on YouTube, you and your brother get to fight main event on Showtime.
“That’s trash. I literally earned my spot and never was given an opportunity. That’s what pisses me off. It’s not really Jake Paul, it’s more like how dare they give him the opportunity that I earned. I fought the main event on Showtime six times, sold out arenas for Showtime, and still would get the ‘We don’t think you’re big enough to fight on pay-per-view.’ Get out of here. It’s crap. That’s why I would never fight on the undercard of him or nobody else who haven’t earned it. If they’re not a world champion, Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Terence Crawford, even Shakur Stevenson, if they not under them I’m not fighting on no undercard of no other men.”
Jake Paul and brother Logan have become two of the biggest names in boxing in the past couple of years, with Jake recently scoring high-profile wins over former MMA champions Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley, and Logan going the distance with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather in an eight-round exhibition bout this past June. Both Paul brothers’ recent bouts took place on Showtime pay-per-view.
While Shields has become one of the biggest names in boxing today—and unquestionably the most popular women’s boxer—the undisputed two-division champion and two-time gold medalist is currently focused on MMA. She makes her second appearance in the cage against Abigail Montes (2-0) at the 2021 PFL Championship event this Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Shields admitted that as passionate as she is about her new calling, it’s possible that she might not have crossed over were it not for the greater pay and promotion that women receive in MMA. However, a callout from UFC star Amanda Nunes also provided motivation.
“You probably right about that,” Shields said when asked if she would have stayed in boxing with the proper compensation. “But I know also too I didn’t think about doing MMA until I heard Amanda Nunes say that she would choke the sh*t out of me. Once she said that, it lit a different fire in me. I’ve had girls say stuff about me in boxing, but when Amanda Nunes said it, not only did she say it but she could actually do it. She said she’d choke the s*it out of me. She said she’d never get in a boxing ring with me, but she’d choke me. I was just like, at the point where I am and the stuff that I know and as tough as I am, I could still get in there with her and she would still be able to choke me. And that didn’t make me feel good.
“So she’s a big part of my motivation in becoming a full mixed martial artist. Learning everything, being a complete MMA fighter, not just relying on boxing but learning everything, she’s a huge part of that because I actually like the way she fights and I wanted to fight against her in boxing, but now I would like to get good enough to where I could grace the cage with her and me and her could fight and I could see if she gon’ choke me.”
Following her come-from-behind victory over Brittney Elkins in her debut, Shields has been modest about her projections as far as when she expects to compete for a major title. Her bouts are currently taking place outside of the PFL’s tournament system, but she hopes to take part in one by 2023.
Shields made it clear that she’s focusing on picking up a league championship first before seriously considering a bout with “The Lioness.”
“All of this is just to become PFL champion, let’s just keep that first,” Shields said. “And then on the way of becoming PFL champion, being good enough to when people say Claressa Shields vs. Amanda Nunes, people don’t just say, ‘Oh, all Amanda has to do is go in there and get on the ground and choke her out.’
“The goal is to be able to say this is going to be a very, very great fight between the both of these two and Claressa Shields learned a lot of MMA and became a great mixed martial artist in three to four years and she’s taking a huge jump in fighting Amanda, but the fight is gonna be huge. That’s what I want, that’s the overall thing, but first things first, getting good enough to become PFL champion. Let’s not skip that part.”