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Claressa Shields To Return To MMA On February 24th In Major Cross-Promotional PFL-Bellator Event

Claressa Shields To Return To MMA On February 24th In Major Cross-Promotional PFL-Bellator Event featured image
Claressa Shields will be competing in her third MMA match for the PFL on February 24th in the major cross-promotional event between the PFL and Bellator, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

American women’s undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields is set to make her MMA comeback this week on February 24th. Shields will be part of a rare but major cross-promotional event between the Professional Fighting League (PFL) and Bellator where she will be fighting on the undercard against fellow American Kelsey DeSantis. The event is set to be hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the Kingdom Arena.

Claressa Shields’ (14-0, 2 KO’s) last MMA fight occurred on October 27th in 2021 that resulted in her losing by split-decision over a course of three rounds [over five minutes]. Her match with Kelsey DeSantis will proceed at super lightweight/junior welterweight division; a division whose weight parameters have been set from 156 lbs to 165 lbs, which is roughly comparable to the middleweight (160 lbs) and super middleweight (168 lbs) divisions of boxing.

Shields will be representing the PFL whom she re-resigned with in 2023 after first signing with them in 2021.

Having not participated in any MMA bout since 2021, the unknown factor surrounding Shields’ development in MMA provides a sense of intrigue towards her MMA return. With her current MMA record set at 1-1, Claressa Shields will be hopeful for a convincing win as she is set to compete upcoming Saturday.

There is little known about Shields’ opponent, Kelsey DeSantis, who thus far has compiled a record of 1-2 in MMA, with her most recent fights occurring last year―during which she won and lost one bout each. DeSantis’ fights in 2023 were regarded as a comeback of sorts as she had not fought since 2013 before her duo of fights last year.

While Shields has more fighting experience overall due to the more than a dozen professional boxing bouts she’s been in, DeSantis does have more experience in MMA―having competed as an amateur from 2009 and 2011 during which she fought thrice. DeSantis can also draw from last year’s fights to give herself an edge against the current undisputed world champion.

The PFL vs. Bellator: Champs event will further see the brother of professional boxer Nico Ali Walsh (8-1, 5 KO’s)―and the grandson of Muhammad Ali, Biaggio Ali Walsh, make his professional debut in MMA. Further featuring on the cross-promotional show’s main card will be prevalent MMA fighters including Ryan Bader, Yoel Romero and Patricio Pitbull.