Guadalajara’s Abigail Montes is only two fights into her mixed martial arts (MMA) career, but she’s already preparing for the kind of monumental challenge typically reserved for experienced pros. On October 27, the 21-year-old will step into the Professional Fighters League (PFL) cage for a showdown with Claressa Shields.
Shields, for those unfamiliar, is widely considered the greatest female boxer alive today, with two Olympic gold medals and an expansive collection of championship belts crowding her trophy case. The unbeaten boxing star announced her plans to transition into MMA last year and, in June, shut the lights out on Brittney Elkins in her debut.
Montes will serve as Shields’ second opponent in MMA. If the Mexican fighter is daunted by the challenge ahead, she’s hiding it well.
“I’m very confident heading into this fight,” Montes told Mexico News Daily during a recent visit to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I’m ecstatic to get such a big opportunity. I’m at my mental and physical peak and getting such a big fight is the perfect opportunity for me to seize.”
Montes started learning MMA when she was 14, encouraged by her mother, and inspired by her brother, who is also a professional fighter.
“My mom put me in classes when I was 14,” Montes recounted. “She wanted me to learn some kind of self defense because I was a girl. I ended up falling in love with mixed martial arts and training.
“My brother was also a fighter,” she added. “Eventually it became something that I pursued too, and I became a professional.”
In the years since her training began, Montes has honed a versatile skillset that will serve her well as her career continues. Against Shields, however, she’ll need to exercise extreme caution for every second of the fight.
The American will only need to land one good punch to win.
Montes is well aware of the danger ahead. While her best course of action would seemingly be to drag the fight to the ground, where Shields’ boxing skill will be all but useless, the Mexican says she’s preparing for every scenario.
“Her boxing is world-class, and I know she’s going to be dangerous standing up,” Montes said. “But we have a strategy going into this fight. I’m going to be prepared for everything she throws at me.
“In [MMA], the fight can go anywhere from standing to grappling,” she added. “We’re going into the fight very prepared for the striking and the grappling department.”
Needless to say, Montes is confident in her skills. Yet she also believes she’ll be able to lean on some of the traits frequently associated with Mexican fighters: intangibles like grit and heart.
“The ability for Mexican fighters to go into a ring or a cage and leave everything in there, 100%, I have that in me,” Montes said. “[The toughness] is just the cherry on top. I’m very confident in my boxing, my striking, my wrestling, my jiu jitsu. The additional toughness and grit to leave everything in the cage, the Mexican heart, those are just the bonuses that come with my skillset.”
If Montes’ skill and heart carry her to an upset victory over Shields, she can look forward to more huge opportunities inside the PFL cage.
The PFL presents MMA in a unique, seasonal format, with playoffs, finals and US $1 million in prizes for the champions of each weight division. Montes didn’t compete in the league’s 2021 season, but she’s hoping a win over Shields will be her ticket into 2022.
“Absolutely, that’s what I’m looking forward to following this fight,” Montes said when asked about competing in the 2022 season.
The PFL’s 155-pound women’s division — the division Montes calls home — has been the domain of Kayla Harrison since its inception. The American, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, has won all 11 of her fights in the PFL cage — a streak that has turned her into one of the most intimidating figures in MMA.
If Montes joins the 2022 season, she anticipates a meeting with Harrison and believes that, with the right game plan, she can usurp the dominant American’s throne.
“I don’t like to look ahead,” she said. “I like to focus on the next challenge, which is Claressa. Eventually I’m sure [Harrison and I] will square off. When that time comes, my team and I will dissect her game and we’ll approach the fight with the best strategy.”
As Montes implies, looking past Shields would be a grave error. Her spot in the 2022 season and a potential fight with Kayla Harrison both seem to hinge on her beating the boxing champ. She believes she’s well positioned to accomplish that feat.
“I visualize the moment of victory often,” she said. “I foresee a potential ground-and-pound or submission victory.”
Mexico News Daily