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Shields said she had long dreamed of becoming a two-sport champion and envied how well MMA has marketed female fighters. She likes that MMA often puts women on cards with men and tells more nuanced backstories about their fighters – she has an idea for a story about fighters who are great babysitters and cooks – and makes them more attractive to fans.
Holly Holm, the former UFC champion who made the transition from boxing to MMA, credits UFC President Dana White for making the sport much more hospitable to women than boxing. White quickly realized how many fans can bring women into the sport after signing Ronda Rousey, UFC’s first female fighter, in 2012, and she became one of the sport’s greatest stars. Before taking the chance on Rousey, White had said women would never fight in the UFC
“Boxing needs someone like him who is willing to turn their necks on women and give them the exposure they need,” said Holm. “Look at Christy Martin, she was on the Mike Tyson card and the cover of Sports Illustrated. Laila Ali was Muhammad Ali’s daughter. Talented women deserve to be seen. You need someone who will consciously push for it. “
And once women are seen in boxing, fans will come back and the sport will grow, which is what Shield’s plan is for the Friday event. She hopes that a large audience will prove her worldwide reach. How many people tune in, whether it’s 20,000 or 120,000, she said she would take it and then build on it.
Her dream is to have a women’s sports network showing women boxing all the time so fans, including their nieces and nephews, know where to tune in to watch a great women fight. At least the channel would give her one more activity to rely on for babysitting nights, she said with a laugh.
“I’m not pushing for equality just for myself because I’ve had a pretty good career so far,” she said. “I do it for all young people after me. I want people to think of me one day and say, “Claressa Shields was so much bigger than boxing. She helped change the world. ‘”