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Percy Lovell Crawford

‌Kelsey DeSantis Ready To Display A Well-Rounded Game Against Claressa Shields‌

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — When PFL [Professional Fights League] merged with Bellator MMA, the two organizations wasted no time formulating a stacked card that features their champions facing off against one another. Saturday, February 24, PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions card will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The card also features a very intriguing female fight between 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and undisputed boxing champion, Claressa Shields against the very dangerous, Kelsey DeSantis. DeSantis gladly welcomes Shields back inside the cage after a long hiatus to focus on evolving and her boxing career. DeSantis, fresh off of a first round TKO win against Kathleen Noy Nelson hopes to send Shields back to boxing with consecutive losses in MMA. 


DeSantis opens up about her upcoming fight and much more with Zenger News.


Zenger: How has Saudi Arabia been treating you, and how has preparation been for Saturday’s fight against Claressa Shields?

DeSantis: It’s been great. It’s been a great camp and I’m looking forward to a great fight.

Zenger: Was it difficult to prepare for Shield’s considering most of the footage on her is boxing?

DeSantis: No necessarily. I focused on her last few fights and analyzed the time from that in terms of how far you can grow within 2 years, and kind of adjusted my game plan and strategy based off of that.

Zenger: You’re coming off of a TKO win in October, Claressa hasn’t competed in MMA since 2021. Does her time away from MMA help her grow as a fighter, or hinder her growth being away from the sport?

DeSantis: Personally, I think you can put in work in a year or two, but when it comes to all of the elements of MMA, the ground game, and what not, I don’t think it takes around 5 to 10 years to progress. In 2 years, you can accelerate your training and learn a lot, but I think it takes quite a bit longer to develop the whole picture.

Zenger: What was your initial reaction not only being offered the fight with Shields, but to be a part of an event of this magnitude?

DeSantis: I was so excited, so honored, and privileged to be given this opportunity. My manager, Brian [Butler] with Sucker Punch Entertainment, is great. He mentioned it, but he said, no guarantees, he didn’t know if it would happen or not. He called back and said that we got it, and the fight was confirmed and I was just stoked. I think it’s so cool. I’m excited to be a part of the card, and to fight her, I think it’s awesome.

Zenger: Often, fighters will say, I’m going to bring my opponent into my wheelhouse, but then fight time comes and they will try to “prove a point.” Not that you don’t have great height, reach, and boxing, but Shields’ is world class. How important is it for you to not attempt to “prove a point” during the course of this fight?

DeSantis: That’s a great question. For me, it’s not about proving a point. It’s about trusting my skillset. I’ve been doing standup for quite a long time. I want to take the fight where it goes. I don’t want to rush anything. I don’t want to miss any opportunities. I trust my game. I don’t wanna be rushing to the ground, when I can be making some moves standing up. I want to make sure I’m careful because obviously her hands are dangerous. I’m not rushing anything or compromising the fact that I’m good all around. I’m really well-rounded.

Zenger: You don’t have to give anything away, but have you changed anything training wise given who the opponent is and what her strengths are?

DeSantis: I have definitely pulled together some strategies specifically for this fight. I’m excited if it goes to the ground, I’m excited if we stand up for a little bit too. I’m comfortable all around. I don’t want to miss any opportunities that will be given.

Zenger: What did you take away from the face off with Claressa?

DeSantis: I thought it was good because I felt relieved when we were done. I felt great that we got that part out of the way. I think there is a mutual respect. In terms of size, she’s definitely big but so am I. It was kind of nice to see that. Usually, I feel bigger than most of my opponents. It was nice to feel that we are close to the same size. I cut a lot to fight at 145. We signed this fight at 55 and now it’s at a catch weight of 65. I think there needs to be more women fights at 55 and 65. Hopefully, that is something that starts happening more.

Zenger: When you got the news that the fight would be contested at 165, did you have to start putting weight back on, or were you already there?

DeSantis: Actually, I was in my window. I just didn’t have to start cutting lower. It’s closer to what I walk around at.

Zenger: You said that you will teach Claressa Shields MMA. What lessons will be taught on Saturday night?

DeSantis: I’m going to teach her that there are a lot of aspects to the game, and sometimes it just takes time. I think that’s the biggest lesson that I will bring to her, but you will have to ask her what she gets out of it (laughing).

(Additional reporting provided by Miriam Onyango)

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