Manager: Shields hoping to juggle boxing, MMA

The potential move for women’s boxing champion Claressa Shields to mixed martial arts is “100 percent real,” her manager, Mark Taffet, told ESPN on Thursday — although he also made clear such a move wouldn’t mean the three-weight-class champion would give up boxing.

Instead, he said, they have visions of being able to compete in both sports simultaneously, with the possible goal of getting in the cage by the end of the year.

“There hasn’t been a conversation about moving full time,” Taffet said. “It’s all been a discussion about being the next great two-sport athlete.”

Shields, 24, made history Friday when she beat Ivana Habazin in an unanimous decision to win the WBC and WBO light middleweight titles in her 10th fight, making her the fastest to achieve world titles in three weight classes in boxing history. In addition to her light middleweight titles, she is the undisputed middleweight title holder.

Now she’s looking to add mixed martial arts to her résumé, although it is still in the beginning of a process. She has trained in the past with MMA stars Cris Cyborg and Kayla Harrison and has a trip planned to work with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones scheduled for February.

“She got her feet wet athletically, her toe in the water athletically,” Taffet said. “The next step for us would be to look at a few different trainers and coaches and speak to them and then decide who an appropriate coach and trainer would be and then make a plan for her to begin training while she continues to blaze trails in boxing.”

Taffet said her next boxing match has yet to be decided. As for MMA, he said he’s spoken with all four major promotions: UFC, Bellator, PFL and ONE Championship about potentially signing Shields. Each, he said, has their own pros and drawbacks.

UFC doesn’t have a 155-pound weight class at the moment — but does have the potential for a fight with Amanda Nunes, currently the biggest female name in MMA. Bellator has Cyborg and Taffet said the promotion is “beginning to look at some of the higher weight classes.” PFL has a 155-pound class already – with a current champ in Harrison — and ONE, Taffet said, “would accommodate anything, both in boxing and MMA because their belief is that every martial art is valid as a combination of mixed martial arts.”

Shields told ESPN last year, in preparation for her fight with Christina Hammer, that she didn’t see herself in the Octagon unless she trained and learned for a year, “just the stuff that I don’t know like jiu-jitsu and kicking and all that stuff if I wanted to consider it.” At the time, she brushed it off, but now it seems like it is more of a plausible possibility.

“Claressa doesn’t put timetables on it because she is carefully and rigorously investigating all aspects of the sport and the organizations,” Taffet said. “But we would like to do something in the cage at the end of 2020 or surely within 12 months.”