As Claressa Shields, perhaps the most accomplished female boxer in a generation, gears up for her mixed martial arts debut, she is making it clear that no love has been lost between her and boxing.
The 26-year-old Michigander has long been unhappy about the onerous structural problems she has faced in professional boxing, from the fanbase to the network executives in charge of greenlighting her fights, despite the fact that she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and multiple-weight titleholder.
In her estimate, she should be a “household name” and a seven-figure earner; but she is neither of those things.
That is why, in a career changing move, she will be switching over to the Professional Fighters League (PFL) on June 10 for her inaugural mixed martial arts appearance – a sport, she feels, can finally catapult her to superstardom.
“I want to be a household name,” Shields (11-0, 2 KOs) recently told MMAFighting in an interview. “I want to be a millionaire. I want to get my just due and I was never able to get my just due in boxing so I’m going to use my athleticism to see what I can do in MMA.”
In an attempt to shore up what she believes is a huge pay disparity between female and male boxers, Shields launched her own pay-per-view debut earlier this year against Marie-Eve Dicaire. However, judging from her comments, it does not appear to have earned her the windfall she expected.
“In women’s boxing, women don’t get paid that much,” Shields explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’ve won every title you can think of, every last organization. Three-time division world champ, two-time undisputed champ at 154 and 160 [pounds]. I’ve held titles at 168 and it’s like I’m not a millionaire. I’m known worldwide but I’m not a household name yet.”
Although Shields has seemed hopeful in the past about improving her place in boxing, her latest comments suggest a great deal of resignation.
“There’s nothing more I can do in women’s boxing to make me be a household name cause I’ve done everything. Nothing else I can do.”