Claressa Shields Says She Still Plans to Box While in MMA: 'Boxing's My First Love'

Claressa Shields isn't hanging up her boxing gloves just yet.

Although the two-time Olympic gold medalist, 25, recently signed a "lucrative" deal with the MMA's Professional Fighters League (PFL), Shields tells PEOPLE that she still plans to continue boxing — which she calls her "first love."

"I'm still going to box. With me going to MMA, people would think or they keep kind of saying that I'm retired or something, but I'm not retired from boxing," she says. "I'm still going to box and the overall goal is to be a world champion in boxing and be a world champion in MMA at the same time."

Joining the MMA is all about her "legacy," Shields tells PEOPLE, driven by her "competitive spirit" to prove that she can be the one to do it all.

"At first I wanted to have one of the top MMA girls come to boxing so I could fight them and beat them. But my competitive spirit kind of just made me want to do something for legacy," she says. "So of course, MMA fighters can go over the boxing and do pretty decent. But I wanted to see, 'Can a boxer actually go to MMA and take it seriously and do great and do very well at the same time of being a world champion?' "

The athlete — who made history as the first American woman to win gold in boxing and the first American boxer (male or female) to win gold in back-to-back Olympic Games (2012 and 2016) — says if anyone can be a champion in both boxing and the MMA, it will be her.

"If I can't do it, it just can't be done. If Claressa Shields can't do it, nobody else can do it, because I'm a once in a lifetime kind of athlete," she says. "So that's the overall goal."

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To achieve this, Shields has amped up her training, getting guidance from MMA champion Holly Holm, as well as Jon Jones (otherwise known as Jonny Bones).

"I'm just so honored that [Holm] and Jonny Bones are willing just to help me. It really means a lot," Shields says. "I've always trained two or three times a day, whether it's boxing or not. So now I'm still training two or three times a day, it's just different. I do Jiu-Jitsu and I have wrestling practice, and I have Muay Thai practice where I'm practicing my kicks and mixing my punches."

"It's a whole different way of punching. It's a whole different way of defense," she adds. "So I'm learning all those about MMA at the same time of mixing it all in together."

Shields first announced her multi-year deal with the PFL earlier this month, and says she's received an outpouring of support from the MMA, which she says "really means a lot."

"There's also a lot of support from the boxing community, from all my big brothers, who have been messaging me — from Andre Ward, Terence Crawford, Shakur Stevenson, Andre Berto," she says. "Some of the top guys have reached out to me like, 'We believe in you, you got this.' "

However, the support wasn't always there, as Shields notes that being a female athlete in a male-dominated sport has created many obstacles for her.

"To all the girls out there that are trying to be in boxing, I would just tell them don't be afraid to be different, know that you're going to have more than just one challenge," she says. "The guys just fight their opponents. Us women, we got to fight for equality and we got to fight for equal promotion, equal TV time. And then we have to fight our opponents."

Shields continues, "It is a fight and I'm still involved in that fight. I think that me adding MMA to my resume will make me a bigger athlete so when I do speak [out], it gets to a broader audience, and we can find a way for male-dominated sports to be held accountable for not being equal to us."

The athlete hopes to make her MMA debut sometime in May or June of 2020, opening up a new chapter of her lasting legacy in the world of sports.

"I'm really looking forward to that. Because I know that I trained hard. I know that I don't ever have a losing mentality. I know I'm aggressive in boxing, but I'm going to be super aggressive in MMA, and it's going to be a whole different mean side of me," Shields tells PEOPLE. "So I'm just ready to unleash that."


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