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MMA: Boxing star Shields in Albuquerque to train for MMA

Claressa Shields stands for her introduction for a fight with Ivana Habazin in a women’s 154-pound title boxing bout in Atlantic City, N.J., on Jan. 10. She is doing MMA training at Jackson-Wink in Albuquerque. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Two-time Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields is in Albuquerque, training at Jackson-Wink MMA Academy, as she prepares to launch her MMA career.

Shields, 10-0 as a professional boxer and a multi-organization world champion, recently signed with the Professional Fighters League. She opted to begin her MMA training at Jackson-Wink.

“The GWOAT (greatest woman of all time) needs GOAT coaches,” Shields tweeted on Friday after her first session at Jackson-Wink. “I learned so much today.”

Shields, 25, is a native of Flint, Michigan. She won Olympic gold medals in London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).

In a recent interview with mmajunkie.com, Shields said she has been contemplating a move into MMA for some time. The success of Jackson-Wink fighters like Jon Jones and Holly Holm, she said, made Albuquerque and J-W an attractive destination.

The exposure women get and the money they make in MMA as opposed to boxing, she said, particularly in the U.S., was a major factor.

“The women have been on a back burner for male fighters who haven’t accomplished anything,” she said. “… We work our butts off just to get overlooked.”

The powers that be in boxing, she said, are sexist “in that they’re intimidated by insanely strong women.”

Shields made it clear, though, that she is not abandoning her boxing career. She has plans, in fact, to fight in the ring in early 2021, ahead of her MMA debut.

The Professional Fighters League, founded in 2017, differs from other MMA promotional companies in that its competition is structured in a season format — regular season, playoffs, championship. The 2021 season is scheduled to begin in April, coronavirus concerns permitting.

The PFL has only one women’s weight class: 155 pounds. None of the leading U.S. MMA circuits sponsor women’s competition at a weight heavier than 145 pounds.

Shields won her gold medals at 165 pounds. She has weighed no lower than 153 pounds in her pro career and as high as 169.

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