Shevchenko’s comments come after the Olympic gold medalist made her debut in the sport last month. After being unhappy with certain elements of boxing, the former three-weight world champion made the transition to MMA through the rising PFL promotion.
But her debut was no walk in the park. Heading into the third round, Shields had been largely controlled by her opponent, Britney Elkin, and was behind on the scorecards. After letting her powerful punches go, the 26-year-old completed a crucial comeback with a third-round TKO.
And now, one of the most dominant women in MMA has given some words of encouragement for Shields’ venture into the sport.
Speaking with MiddleEasy’s James Lynch, Valentina Shevchenko praised “T-Rex” for setting an example for male boxers who continue to call out MMA stars for boxing bouts.
“I think it’s amazing. You know, she showed example for all, like, male boxers. They’re like keeping saying, ‘Okay’, challenging MMA fighters, ‘Come here. I’m here. Let’s do in boxing match’. But she actually showed if you want to prove someone something, you not gonna just like call in for everyone, ‘Oh, come into my rules. Come into my home. And I will do, like, fights with you’. No. If you want to prove something, you actually go into their house, and will fight under their rules, and give a spectacular fight; make there, like, big things,” said Shevchenko. (h/t Sportskeeda)
Shevchenko added that, unlike others, Shields’ crossover is owing to her new love for the sport of MMA, rather than for self-promotion and attention.
“And this is really, the real thing. It’s not like promotion. It’s not hype. It’s not like things like that. It’s just like love for martial arts and for the sport in general. And this is, I say, a very good example how the things have to be.”
The 125-pound champ went on to praise Shields’ resolve and preparation leading up to the fight, which she says was crucial in her ability to come back from adversity and secure the win in the final round.
“Oh, I think in her training camp, in her preparation, she was prepared for this. And she definitely knew where she was going to be and what kind of position. And definitely she was working on it. That’s why it’s kind of like, okay, if you don’t know something, you’re gonna feel like panic or something like that. But if you know what to expect, how to avoid this, or what to get; MMA is like, before the fight is over, like completely, or time, or you tap, or whatever, it’s not over. That’s why there is no reason to panic yet,” said Shevchenko.
While Shields prepares for her second MMA fight on August 19 (originally scheduled for August 27), Shevchenko will be turning her attention to the next challenger to her flyweight title. The Kyrgyzstani has defended the gold five times since dethroning Joanna Jędrzejczyk in 2018. Her latest defense saw her demolish Jessica Andrade in the second round at UFC 261.
Third-ranked Lauren Murphy is likely to be the next flyweight to attempt to take down “Bullet,” after she extended her winning streak to five with a victory over Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263.
Do you think Claressa Shields can become as successful as Valentina Shevchenko in MMA?