By DAVID WEINBERG

Brittney Elkin thought it was a prank at first; Professional Fighters League President Ray Sefo called her two months ago with an offer to fight three-division women's boxing champion Claressa Shields in a MMA bout at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City that will be shown on ESPN2 Thursday.

"He called me on April Fools Day," Elkin said Wednesday in an interview on LockerRoom. "When he threw it all down to me, my first reaction was he was joking. I asked him 10 times and he assured me he wasn't. I even called him back one more time to make sure he wasn't kidding. Then I started camp for this two days later."

There's a reason Sefo called her. Actually, several reasons.

When Shields, one of the top women's boxers, announced she was going to try her hand (and foot) at MMA, PFL organizers went looking for suitable opponent. That is, someone who might put up a fight but would ultimately lose. They aren't paying Shields a reported $250,000 to suffer a defeat.

Elkin is 3-6 as an MMA fighter, hasn't fought in two years, and has lost three straight. The closest she's come to a cage since 2019 was earlier this year. When Sefo called, Elkin was working as a bartender during a Cage Fury Fighting Championships event at Philadelphia's 2300 Arena, where she serves as Operations Manager.

"I know what they think," said Elkin, who according to RingTV.com made $10,000 for making weight (155.4 pounds) Wednesday and can earn another $10,000 by winning the three-round, lightweight (155 pounds) bout. "I'm a perfect opponent. I'm an afterthought. But I don't look at it that way."

Shields has been training for the last seven months in an effort to become more than just a striker.

She spent time at Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she trained alongside former world champions Jon Jones and Holly Holm.

Holm is probably the most successful boxer to make the transition to MMA. Five years after switching disciplines, she knocked out Ronda Rousey to become UFC bantamweight champion.

"I've put in a whole lot of time and I didn't come to the PFL just to have my beautiful record in boxing (11-0), and all of my accomplishments (two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-division champion) derailed by somebody who is not even really a serious fighter," Shields said during a press conference Tuesday.

"I'm an athlete, I'm a fighter, and as much as anyone up here on this panel, I'm an MMA fighter. I'm an all-around great athlete, great person. I"m not just a boxer. I'm an MMA fighter now. Just accept it. Truth is, Brittney Elkin is going to lose. Period."

Shields is probably right. It won't be a surprise if she catches Elkin with a combination before Elkin can take her to the ground and end the fight early.

But it's not a guarantee.

What if she doesn't? What if Elkin takes her down and is able to control the pace from the mat? And there's also the stamina factor. Women boxers fight two-minute rounds. MMA bouts are five minutes per round.

Shields has certainly prepared as best as possible, but that doesn't assure success.
"There can be a lot of unpredictable moments in an MMA fight," Elkin said. "A lot of things can happen that you can't plan for and you can't simulate them in sparring. I think that's something that will help me. I've had more time in a cage (than Shields). I think that gives me a little edge because I won't be figuring those things out for the first time.  Let's see what happens when I take her into deep water."

You can swim laps in a pool all day long, but that's not like the ocean, where the current and tides come into play.

Deep water can be challenging, whether it's in the sea or the cage.
It's no joke.

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