Fresh from claiming victory on her MMA debut, boxing GWOAT Claressa Shields is basking in the sweet satisfaction of sticking it to her perceived doubters—particularly Randy Couture.
On June 10, Shields pulled off a sensational come-from-behind win over Brittney Elkin at PFL 4, sending a clear statement that she, and boxers generally, can succeed in MMA.
The widely-held belief that boxers lack the skills to successfully transition to MMA has loomed large over Shields since she signed with the PFL in late 2020. Fostering this belief are previous unsuccessful attempts to transition, most notably that of former three-division world boxing champ, James Toney.
In 2010, Toney was choked out after spending just over three minutes in the UFC Octagon with Randy Couture, failing to land a single punch. Many believed Shields would succumb to a similar fate when she made her MMA debut this week.
And the doubters were almost proved right, with Shields spending much of her PFL debut on her back, offering no answer to Elkin’s grappling. In the third round however, Shields put her two-time Olympic gold medal-winning fists to work, earning a TKO.
Claressa Shields Basks in Victory, Sticks it to Randy Couture
Perhaps there’s nothing sweeter than proving one’s doubters wrong, especially when one of them—Randy Couture— is sitting cageside while you do it.
While Shields’ MMA prospects have never been publicly doubted by Couture, the 26-year-old told TMZ Sports that it was extra satisfying to approach the UFC Hall of Famer post-fight, and declare that she’s not the next James Toney.
“My biggest takeaway is what I thought it was gonna be,” Shields said. “Like, you can do it all. You control the narrative in that I’m really just that one-of-a-kind athlete. And I was so happy to see Randy Couture ringside and to look at him and to say, ‘I’m not James Toney.’ That was a great feeling for me because he just was like, they all have this stereotype that boxers can’t do it.
“And it’s like, man, we’re super athletes. It’s just that MMA is a wild sport. You gotta be a wild person to want to do it. And I’m wild on the inside, so I was just happy to experience that,” said Shields.
Buoyed by her debut victory, Shields says she has lofty MMA aspirations, which she plans to forge alongside her glittering boxing career.
“The goal is to be champion in both sports, and I believe that I can do it. And I believe that I learned a lot from my fight last night. Look, it wasn’t an A+ performance. Like, look, I got the knockout, and I got the finish, and it was exciting and stuff like that and I overcame adversity, but it’s like, I want to have easier fights. I want to throw more punches and kicks. I want to get me some slams and stuff in. And we got a long way to go. But I’m happy I was able to start it that way and take care of business.”
What do you think? Will Claressa Shields continue to prove doubters wrong in her next MMA fight?