Claressa Shields needed to do something special in the third and final round of her MMA debut early Friday morning in Atlantic City.
Shields, a three-division world boxing champion, pummeled Brittney Elkin in the third five-minute round of their 155-pound bout and the referee stopped the fight with 1:44 left after Elkin took a beating while on the canvas.
Shields lost the first two rounds but there was no question the third belonged to her after she took Elkin down early in the opening minute. She repeatedly punched the defenseless Elkin, who tried to cover her head and deflect Shields’ punches with no success.
Elkin won the first two rounds 49-33 and 46-39 based on the Professional Fighters League performance rating before Shields won the third 100-2. The 100 rating is a perfect score.
“I feel like I am dreaming,” Shields said in a post-fight interview on ESPN2, which broadcast the bout live. ‘”This is crazy. After doing this seven months of training … I kept telling myself, ‘It’s going to be hard and do not expect an easy win.’
“Every time I sat down in the corner I said, ‘Dang, I lost another round.’ I came out in the third round and coach said, ‘Do not get taken down.’”
Shields signed a multi-year contract with PFL in November after becoming frustrated with the boxing world.
Despite being the fastest boxer in history – male or female – to win world championships in three divisions, she had trouble lining up a fight during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic while other fighters were returning to the ring.
Shields also doesn’t believe she is paid what she’s worth given she’s the only boxer in history to hold undisputed championships in two weight divisions and is 11-0 since turning pro. She received a reported $250,000 for the bout vs. Elkin.
She also wants to holds world championships in both sports at the same time.
“I never doubted myself winning a boxing match in my life,” said Shields, 26. “MMA … it’s possible I could lose this first fight. I don’t want to lose. I’m going to try dang hard not to lose. That all I did. I have a never-quit attitude every round.”
Elkin, 34, is a Jiu Jitsu brown belt who was fighting for the first time in more than two years since suffering an injury in January 2019.
She has a 3-7 MMA record after losing to Shields.
Shields came out in the first round throwing punches from a traditional boxing stance before Elkin took her down a minute into the bout. In the second round, Elkin had Shields down for almost four full minutes before Shields was able to escape and a land several punches in the final 20 seconds.
What’s next for Shields remains to be seen. She could return to the MMA cage or go back to boxing since her contract with PFL allows her to pursue both sports.