Are boxing and MMA set for a sequel?

Clara Peters
02/10/2019 3:32pm

Photos: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images (top) Buda Mendes/Getty Images (bottom)

GettyImages 531275804This weekend Claressa Shields faces Ivana Habazin in her hometown of Flint, Michigan, but is the self-styled 'GWOAT' set for a boxing / MMA crossover bout in the near future? Clara Peters gives her take on the potential sequel to Mayweather vs McGregor...

Just over two years since Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor squared off in Las Vegas, another boxing vs. mixed martial arts (MMA) crossover fight could happen soon.

This time, it could be female boxing champ Claressa Shields (9-0, 2 KOs as a pro) facing off against UFC champ Amanda Nunes (18-4 in the UFC).

Shields publicly toyed with the idea in an interview with Sporting News, where she proposed two crossover fights. "We could do a boxing match and then I'd go over there," Shields proclaimed. "We could do a two-fight deal."

In challenging Nunes, Shields says she wants to find out who is the best. "I feel like she's great in her sport. I'm the GWOAT [Greatest Woman of All Time] in my sport,” said the Olympic gold medallist. “Us just being competitive athletes, you always want to know, like, who's the baddest? Who's the best?”

Shields is also likely aware of the financial implications of a crossover fight. In August 2017, the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor 'super fight' proved to be hugely lucrative for those involved. Despite the match-up effectively being an exhibition, millions of people tuned due to both fighters being global superstars. The fight generated 4.3 million domestic pay-per-view buys and reportedly more than £493m in total revenue. It also generated £45.2m in ticket sales.

Both men received a financial windfall for their efforts, with Mayweather earning an estimated £212m while McGregor’s takings were said to be around £70m. Shields vs Nunes certainly won’t reach those levels, but it will likely drum up enough interest to make it a big financial hit for both fighters, and provide them with career high pay days.

'Selling' a Shields vs Nunes crossover fight would be relatively easy. It can be framed as a battle of the 'GOAT' female fighters — Shields in women’s boxing, Nunes in women’s MMA. Both are undisputed champs. Shields is the IBF, WBC, WBA, and WBO middleweight titleholder after easily defeating Christina Hammer in April. Nunes, on the other hand, added the featherweight belt to her bantamweight title recently.

Coincidentally, Nunes won the featherweight belt by knocking out Shields’s friend and former training partner Cris Cyborg. This friendship would add an extra dimension to the fight if it does push through.

More importantly, Shields vs Nunes might not be a gargantuan mismatch on the scale of Mayweather vs McGregor.

Yes, Shields is the face of women’s boxing. But that doesn’t mean she is light years ahead of Nunes the way Mayweather was against McGregor.

When 'Money' fought the Irishman, he had already fought professionally 49 times against quality opponents including Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao.

There was no way a relative novice, even one as good as McGregor, could beat such a singularly gifted and experienced boxer as Mayweather - a man regarded by many as a transcendent talent and one of the best to put on a pair of gloves in the last few decades.

In contrast, Shields is just 24, and has fought only nine times professionally. Although she enjoyed a stellar 77-1 amateur career she hasn't been tested the same way Mayweather has. Shield was even knocked down in her 6th professional fight against Hanna Gabriels, although she recovered to notch another win.

Granted Shields is among the best fighters in women's boxing right now, but she does not look unbeatable. Yes she would be a heavy favourite against Nunes in a boxing match. Yet the Brazilian could surprise her as she is known for staying on her feet and inflicting most of her damage with her fists. She is also known for her devastating power, as evidenced by her 13 knockouts in 18 wins. If Nunes clips the two-time Olympic champ, it could get interesting.

How Shields would fare opposite Nunes in the Octagon is a totally different story. Nunes would have an outsider's chance against Shields in the boxing ring, but Shields would stand no chance against Nunes in MMA. The two-time Olympic champion would have to deal with Nunes' repertoire of punches, kicks, elbows, takedowns, and ground moves - the same repertoire that has overwhelmed the very best of women's MMA, including Holly Holm, Cyborg, Valentina Shevchenko, Ronda Rousey, and Miesha Tate.

Thus far, Shields has done much of the talking concerning a potential Nunes match and formal negotiations haven't begun. With UFC president Dana White noting that he is "not opposed" to such a match-up, the seeds of a potential Shields vs Nunes 'superfight' have been planted.

And if Mayweather vs McGregor taught us one thing, it's that when there's a buck - or several hundred million bucks - to be made, boxing and MMA are willing to put their differences aside and make it happen.