Is there any doubt Claressa Shields is the best at what she does?
If there were any lingering questions over whether Shields deserved to be ranked No. 1 on the women’s pound-for-pound list, the 25-year-old American dispelled of them with her dominant win over Marie-Eve Dicaire over the weekend in Flint, Michigan.
Shields dominated every round over the previously undefeated champ, and now Shields is the first fighter in history–male or female–to have won two undisputed boxing championships in boxing’s four-belt era.
But Shields biggest test will come down the line, and it won’t be inside a boxing ring.
Nope, Shields appears virtually unbeatable within boxing’s weight classes she’s won world titles: boxing’s 154-pound, 160-pound and 168-pound divisions.
But there is at least one 155-pound MMA fighter who might give Shields some serious trouble, at least under the very different ruleset of MMA.
Shields vs. Kayla Harrison is the fight.
Shields vs. Harrison Superfight
When Shields signed a three-year deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) late last year, they had to have done so with one massive superfight on their minds for down the line: Shields vs. 2019 PFL lightweight champion Harrison.
Don’t look for grabby headlines where the two ladies bash each other through the media, at least don’t look for them until the fight is actually signed.
After all, Shields just started training in MMA, and Harrison is already a world champion.
Besides that, though, Shields and Harrison actually know each other. The two stars go all the way back to the 2012 Olympics. Both athletes promised the other back then that they would come home with gold medals in their respective sports, and both actually did it.
Shields is a two-time Olympic champ in boxing (2012, 2016), and Harrison did the same in Judo (2012, 2016).
Now, the two superstar fighters seem to be on a collision course in the PFL.
Waiting for the Fight
To borrow from that Tom Petty song, “the waiting is the hardest part”.
But as Shields continues to train for MMA at Jackson Wink MMA Academy under the guidance of some of the sharpest minds in the sport, Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, and alongside superstar UFC champions, Jon Jones and Holly Holm, the tension over their future superfight is building at a rapid pace.
Because as amazing as Shields has looked inside a boxing ring, Harrison has looked just as special inside an MMA cage.
It’s not often that an MMA prospect comes along and wins a world championship in just the second year as a professional fighter. That’s what Harrison did in 2019, and she’s a massive favorite to do the same this season.
Where Shields will spend 2021 facing specific fighters in special bouts that are designed to get her ready for next year’s PFL tournament, Harrison will be competing for PFL gold again and that company’s coveted $1 million dollar prize.
Let’s put it this way. If Shields is the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of women’s boxing, Harrison is the Khabib Nurmagomedov.
It’s one of the most intriguing matchups in all of sports and waiting for it to come along could be just as fun as when it gets here.
Biggest and Best Tests for Shields in PFL
Shields and Harrison are likely to meet as soon as next year in what will be one of the biggest fights in MMA history.
That it could happen in the championship round of the PFL’s 2022 tournament with all the marbles on the line would make things even bigger and better, and then Shields might finally be faced with a task she can’t quite complete.
Or maybe she wrecks Harrison to prove she’s MMA’s next big thing.
Whatever the case, only in the PFL will Shields be faced with challenges worthy of her craft.
Shields has already won world titles in three different weight classes in boxing. More importantly, there don’t seem to be any challengers left in the sport that might actually give Shields any problems.
Undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor is the most interesting name on that very short list, but Ireland’s favorite fighter is just too small.
Bigger and better things await Shields in MMA. The fighter makes her PFL debut later this summer, and there won’t be any more compelling story in sports.
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