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‘I knew it would be completely different’ - Boxing champ Claressa Shields on successful MMA debut

Claressa Shields made her MMA debut at PFL 2021, Week 4 and spoke to reporters about her performance.

Claressa Shields after her third-round TKO victory over Brittney Elkin at PFL 4.
Claressa Shields after her third-round TKO victory over Brittney Elkin at PFL 4.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Claressa Shields earned a third-round technical knockout in her long-awaited MMA debut at 2021 PFL 4 on Thursday night, but had to overcome some adversity after being down two rounds.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and boxing champion met Brittany Elkin, a season veteran and brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and was put on her back almost immediately. From there, Shields was controlled on the bottom, but did enough defensively to not take a ton of damage in such a compromising position. The fight played out this way for the better part of two rounds, and it was likely Shields needed a stoppage going into the third round.

And she got it. After tagging Elkin with a right hand, Shields was able to avoid a takedown and hammer away with brutal ground-and-pound that would bring about the end of the fight in its final minutes. The debutant expected to have a tough outing in her first fight, which was something she elaborated on as she broke down her performance during the post-fight press conference.

“Well, I knew it would be completely different and that’s what we had trained for,” said Shields (via MMA Junkie). “The only thing I knew coming into the fight [was] I knew I was in dog shape. I knew I had trained the hardest that I could train and I had stuffed enough information that was in my mind I could take. So, my main thing was coming in that cage and having faith over fear and put my best foot forward. I feel like every round I did that.

“First round, she came and she got on top of me and I didn’t freak out because I had been in that position so many times in practice and I just did what I thought I was supposed to do like get back to the cage and try to get up,” continued Shields. “I seen in the first round [that] I wasn’t able to really get it and then the second round came and I was taken down again, but I landed some shots. I just knew she couldn’t hurt me and I needed to figure out what it is with the movement and stuff like that. When I sat down in the second round and coach said, ‘Hey, it’s time to go out here and get the stoppage’ I was just like I’m not going to get taken down this round. I’m not giving her my back and I’m just gonna come out here and give the best that I got.

“I could’ve went home with the L like that, but something came over me and was like keep punching and I felt like she was getting tired.”

Shields knew that the difference in experience between her and Elkin was going to play a factor in the fight, but it was not enough to disparage her in any way. There were questions surrounding her capability on the ground since she is a novice in that department, and yet, she was composed enough to protect herself on the ground and even escape an armbar attempt.

She credits her time and work at JacksonWink MMA in the last several months for her calm demeanor throughout those worrying moments in her debut.

“I had told myself, ‘This is not going to be easy’,” said Shields. “That’s why I spent so many months in Albuquerque. Like I haven’t been home in a while and I already knew that the debut wasn’t going to be easy because I was getting in there with an experienced vet. I’ve been doing MMA for seven months and she’s been doing it for 12 years, so I knew I was at a disadvantage, but I also knew I’m just a different kind of animal. Even though I felt like I was losing, I still felt like we still had time, so I just was like go out here and give it your all. Don’t quit and you’ll come out happy and victorious. And now we’re here and I got a third-round TKO.”