Claressa Shields suffers first defeat of professional fighting career, dropping MMA bout

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Claressa Shields has suffered the first defeat of her professional fighting career.

In her second MMA bout, Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in boxing, was outpointed by Abigail Montes via split decision on Wednesday at Hard Rock Live. One judge scored the bout 29-28 for Shields, but the two other judges had it 29-28 for Montes.

The loss is the first for Shields (1-1 in MMA) as a professional fighter since 2012 when she dropped a decision to Savannah Marshall in an Olympic boxing qualifying tournament.

"I did better in there. I did pretty good on the cage," Shields, 26, told ESPN minutes after an emotional embrace with her friends and family. "It was always the ground stuff. Gotta get better at defending the takedown and stuff. The game plan was to just do better than my last fight. Of course to win [also], but do better.

"It continues to show us what we need to work on, and I worked damn hard in camp. I knew I would look better. It was the last round that did it for me. She went for the god damn takedown and I didn't respond quick enough."

Shields, who made her MMA debut successfully in June with a third-round TKO of Brittney Elkin, showed an improved wrestling game in her second outing but also faced stiffer competition.

Shields came out firing overhand rights, but many missed their mark as the 21-year-old Mexican dipped and dodged. The three-division boxing champion won the opening round on all three scorecards.

However, Montes (3-0) took over afterward. She scored a takedown of Shields in Round 2, and even after the boxer connected with a big right hand, Montes recovered well.

Montes scored another takedown in the third round, and this time, took advantage with a bundle of punches. The final minute of the fight was spent with Montes on top in ground-and-pound as the horn sounded to end the contest.

Shields, a native of Flint, Michigan, is in the midst of a three-year deal with PFL. She said the loss wouldn't "detour the game plan," one that calls for her to continue her boxing career -- where she's the unified middleweight champion -- while she prepares to enter the PFL championship season in 2023.

Following a Dec. 11 boxing match with Ema Kozin -- a prelude to an undisputed title fight with Savannah Marshall -- Shields plans to return to Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"Continue more ground game, continue more training; getting better," Shields said of the plan. "I've got two more years left so it's not over."