Boxing champion Claressa Shields is set to make her MMA debut against Brittney Elkin in the showcase bout of PFL 4 on Thursday in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It’s one of the most interesting storylines in sports this year, and it’s a can’t-miss television event in the boxing and MMA communities.
PFL 4 begins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and continues on ESPN2 and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
Shields, 26, from Flint, Michigan, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist as an amateur boxer, and she’s already become a three-division world champion in the professional ranks.
But Shields believes she’s being held back by the powers that be in her sport, at least in terms of how much money she makes compared to her male counterparts, so Shields is making the move over to MMA to grab a bigger share of the pie.
“Where is my $1 million at?” Shields asked USA Today.
ALL the latest UFC news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on UFC newsletter here!
PFL Champs Win $1 Million
The answer to that last question is actually kind of easy, at least now that Shields made the move over to MMA.
After all, the PFL offers Shields the most direct path to grabbing that amount of cash, and she would take her first step in that direction by beating Elkin at PFL 4.
PFL is the world’s fastest-growing MMA promotional company, and it’s the only one that offers MMA in a season format that features playoffs and world championship rounds for each division.
PFL champs win $1 million to go along with their belts, so Shields can grab her PFL gold and a big pile of loot just as soon as she starts winning PFL tournaments.
That won’t happen this year, but Shields believes she’ll be able to compete in the women’s lightweight division as soon as next season.
Follow the Heavy on UFC Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Shields Making ‘Unprecedented’ Move
From having no MMA experience at all to facing the likes of veteran MMA fighter Elkins at PFL 4 after less than a year of MMA training is a stunning move.
But it’s one of her coaches, Greg Jackson, that believes she’ll be able to make it.
“To do what she’s doing is unprecedented,” Jackson said per USA Today. “To have a boxer who’s had zero Jiu-Jitsu, zero wrestling, nothing, just boxing, and to step in at this level this quickly is crazy. That being said, we 100 percent believe in her.”
So Shields is daring to be great. But since she’s already great at boxing, she’s double daring to be great in a way most professional prizefighters would never dare.
Seriously. Could you imagine Floyd Mayweather Jr. crossing over from boxing in his prime to fight in MMA? How about Andre Ward? How about any of the top pound-for-pound male boxers of the last two decades?
According to most boxing pundits, Shields is the Mayweather or Ward of her time. She’s the No. 1 pound-for-pound women’s boxer on the planet, and she’s crossing over into MMA anyway.
According to her, it’s because she can’t get the kind of money she wants and deserves from her own sport.
“Guys who haven’t done as much as me have more than me, and I had two Olympic gold medals even before I turned professional. They have zero. So it’s like, I could be a 20-time world champ in boxing and I would still be in the same position,” Shields said per USA Today.
Shields can start putting herself in that different position via her new sport by beating Elkins at PFL 4.
More Information About PFL 4 on June 10
PFL 4 begins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+, and the show continues on ESPN2 and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
You can see the full fight card below.
ESPN2, ESPN+ Fight Card
Claressa Shields vs. Brittney Elkin
Clay Collard vs Joilton Lutterbach
Bubba Jenkins vs. Bobby Moffett
Brendan Loughnane vs. Tyler Diamond
ESPN+ Fight Card
Natan Schulte vs. Alexander Martinez
Marcin Held vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Akhmed Aliev vs. Loik Radzhabov
Sheymon Moraes vs. Jesse Stirn
Chris Wade vs Arman Ospanov
According to a PFL press release, four fighters who were originally scheduled to fight at PFL 4 will now compete at PFL 6 instead.
PFL 6 will take place on June 25.
On that card, former UFC lightweight champ Anthony “Showtime” Pettis will square off against Raush Manfio in an important lightweight showdown, and two-time PFL featherweight champ Lance Palmer will duel with Movlid Khaybulaev in the PFL’s stacked 145-pound division.
YouTube: Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel