CLARESSA SHIELDS RETURNED to JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in late March, fresh off making boxing history by becoming the first two-division undisputed champion in the four-belt era.


Time was running low, though, with Shields scheduled to make her MMA debut in the Professional Fighters League on June 10. The only way to get one of the world's best female boxers ready for her first trip into the cage was to throw her into the deep end of the MMA pool to see if she would sink or swim.


In early April, Shields participated in her first mixed martial arts sparring session. She admitted she was "afraid" of it.


"Of course, fighting on the ground [was scary]," Shields told ESPN. "Not knowing how to get back up. Not knowing how to keep somebody from grabbing me or not being able to stop somebody from taking me down. Armbars and all of that kind of stuff."