Editor’s note: This article was originally published on MMAJunkie.com.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Claressa Shields is disappointed with how female athletes have been treated in boxing.
The two-time boxing Olympic gold medalist and undefeated champion doesn’t feel women have received a fair shake when it comes to opportunities competing professionally in the sweet science.
Shields (1-0 MMA) debuted in MMA last month under the PFL banner and is expected to return to the cage for her second bout on Oct. 27. She feels she had no option but to take her talents to MMA in order to maximize her earnings and stardom, as boxing wasn’t going to get the job done.
“I feel like I wouldn’t have switched over if I could become a household name in boxing,” Shields told MMA Junkie. “I feel like I did everything I could do in boxing to be that household name and get that million dollar check. Even with all my accomplishments, it’s still not enough. That just pissed me off in general.
“But I decided that you know, instead of retiring from boxing and saying, ‘F this sport,’ I’m going to keep defending my titles in boxing, but I’m going to use my youth of 26 and see what I can do by the age of 32, see if I can become MMA champion and a household name in MMA.
“I’ve already become a household name in MMA in the past few months just off one fight. So I should’ve started doing MMA way sooner. In boxing, you can only get so far and get so much notoriety, but in MMA it’s limitless.”
Shields feels boxing is not promoting female talent properly and the popularity of women’s MMA proves they have what it takes to take center stage in combat sports.
“It’s sexist for people to say that [women can’t sell] without giving up the opportunity,” Shields said. “That’s the thing. Start giving women the opportunity, start getting the numbers. And if women don’t sell, whatever if they don’t sell, do your job and promote the fights. Build the story. Have the girls push each other at weigh-ins and s—. Do your job. That’s what you’re supposed to do.
“But they feel in women’s boxing that that’s impossible. How is it impossible if women in MMA are doing it? I think guys at the top who don’t want to cut the check, they’re just saying all this stuff so they can save money. ‘Women can’t do this. Women can’t do that. That’s going to lose us money,’ when it’s not.”
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Women in MMA often headline MMA events across all major promotions and some of the biggest names in the sport are female. Women’s MMA has come a long way in the last decade, and Shields strongly believes it’s due to the support that’s been given from the very top of the major organizations.
“Women’s MMA is way bigger than [women’s] boxing,” Shields said. “I don’t know why because boxing has been around way longer and we have better-skilled fighters when it comes to standing up. I feel like in MMA, women get more respect because they fight at the same time as the men.
“People at the top like Dana White, Peter Murray, all these different organizations they give women a platform and they build the women up. Now women are being the main event and guys are in the undercard of women because the women have more fans than the men, and they’re entertaining and they’re tough fighters.
“I think that in boxing women have never been given that opportunity on the forefront, to be pay-per-view, and you know, just to have those opportunities to fight in the co-main event of a big card, to grow our brand and stuff. We have to do things outside of boxing to grow our brand, and the men don’t have to do that.”
Shields returns to action in MMA on the main card of the 2021 PFL Championship on Oct. 27 against Abigail Montes. Kayla Harrison and Taylor Guardado will fight in the main event on that card.
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