The MMA world is about to receive a new injection of boxing striking and star power. Two of boxing’s most popular and decorated athletes, Claressa Shields and Tyson Fury, have recently stated that they’re interested in making the jump from the sweet science to mixed martial arts.
What are their plans? How will they handle the transition from the squared circle to the cage? And what challenges await them on their new combat sports and martial arts journey? Let’s take a look at how boxers can make the switch from boxing to MMA.
Claressa Shields Prepares for MMA Debut in 2020
In the past Claressa Shields has dismissed the idea of following in the footsteps of fellow boxers-turned-MMA fighters like Heather Hardy and Holly Holm. In a recent interview with Bad Left Hook, though, the two-time Olympic gold medalist who currently holds a flawless 9-0 record in professional boxing confirmed that she’s come around to the idea. As of now, her plan is to compete in both boxing and MMA. And she’s already in training.
“Yeah, debuting September of next year,” she told the outlet. “I’ve done some wrestling training, going to start my BJJ next month and learn some kicks. So next year September I’ll be ready!”
When asked what had made her reconsider an MMA career, the fighter was frank. “The women get more respect over there and money.”
Shields isn’t wrong, nor is she the first female boxer to express frustrations with the disparity between their hard work and the few rewards currently afforded to women’s boxing biggest stars and most passionate representatives. Hardy and Holm have also said that recognition and more fair compensation were motivating factors in their decision to move from boxing to MMA. ““Truth be told I’m a world-class athlete, I have carried myself like a leader, putting on great performances and taking tough challenges,” Shields added. “But still the acknowledgment is not there.”
Hopefully this incredible athlete will receive some of that acknowledgement she’s due when she makes her MMA debut next fall.
Another world class Olympian seeking MMA glory outside of her discipline has already reached out to her about potentially becoming training partners. Kayla Harrison, a world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist in Judo, told TMZ Sports that she sees a lot of potential in Shields and would love to work with her. “If she wants to continue to work on her [double leg takedown], she’s got my number. I’ll show her some judo throws. We can make it happen!” she said. “As long as you help me straighten out my striking! So far in my MMA career, I’ve thrown about zero punches on my feet.”
Tyson Fury Teases MMA Fight
Heavyweight boxing champ Tyson Fury’s plans and motivations aren’t nearly as clear as Shields’s, but he has been hinting that something involving MMA is in his future.
While promoting a WWE appearance, the boxer recently told Sky Sports that some mixed martial arts-related news was coming. “I’ve got something big coming up after this. Even more bigger than this. We might see Tyson Fury have his MMA debut this year, too,” the boxer said. “It’s different but like I said, Tyson Fury taking over.”
Fury went on to say that he’s been talking to Conor McGregor abut this potential career move from boxing to MMA. “I’ve been speaking to Conor about it. He’s willing to train me and it’s going to be good. He just said any time you’re ready, when you get the time, let’s go. Come over to Dublin and we’ll start training. So can’t wait, going to take him up on the offer. Who knows? We might be on a double header.”
The Challenges of Transitioning from Boxing to MMA
MMA fighters with strong boxing skills tend to fare well in mixed martial arts competition, but that doesn’t mean that a boxer can just step into the current MMA climate and expect to succeed on their boxing alone. For every Holly Holm who has made a successful transition from boxing to MMA, there are many more who have fizzled out and been all but forgotten.
The key for any boxer who wants to succeed in MMA appears to be adapting their skillset to the demands of a new sport — and learning how to defend against a whole new set of attacks. A boxer’s stance might need to be tweaked to make them less vulnerable to takedowns. Their hand position might require some adjustments as well, now that they’re in a sport that also involves kicks to the head and torso. Footwork and rhythm can also be very different in boxing and MMA, and might require some time to get used to.
Training in other marital arts and combat sports and adding to your arsenal of attacks is also crucial for the boxer turning to martial arts. In fact, it’s the development of a well-rounded martial arts and combat sports game that Holly Holm credits for her historic win against Ronda Rousey at UFC 193.
“Boxing has helped me with a huge, huge foundation,” she told the Wall Street Journal when asked about how she uses her boxing in MMA. “There’s still different things in MMA and there’s things that I’ve had to adjust to and adapt with and learn for MMA. So yes, the boxing background taught me a lot and did help benefit in this fight, but there was a clinch game. There were kicks. There was a whole other thing. So I’m not going to say that it’s one over the other. It is mixed marital arts and it was more than just punching.”