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Clay Collard will put boxing aside during PFL chase but wants belts in both sports

Claressa Shields may have some competition in the race for crossover champion status.

While the two-time Olympic gold medalist made waves with her recent PFL signing, the promotion already has another professional boxer under contract, as well: four-time UFC veteran “Cassius” Clay Collard.

“I love any kind of combat sport, man,” Collard told MMA Junkie. “I’m passionate about it all.”

Collard is best known to MMA fans for a four-fight UFC run that included a promotional debut against future featherweight champion Max Holloway. While he would return to the regional stage following his 2015 release from the promotion, Collard has turned his attention to a pro boxing run in the past 18 months or so – and is currently enjoying some success with nine wins in his past 10 appearances.

“I boxed at a young age,” Collard said. “I love boxing. For me, this has been like kind of getting back to my roots and where I started all this. So I’ve really enjoyed boxing, and it’s something that I love to do.”

On Saturday, Collard (18-8 MMA, 9-2-3 boxing) looks to build on his recent achievements when he takes on Quincy LaVallais (9-0-1) at The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a rematch of a June 2019 meeting that ended in a split draw. The Top Rank undercard bout streams on ESPN+ ahead of Shakur Stevenson vs. Toka Kahn Clary on ESPN.

“I thought I won,” Collard said of the first meeting. “I’m sure he thinks he won. I don’t know how he thinks he won, but he thinks he did. I think he’s trying to jump on the Clay Collard hype train right now, trying to derail me a little bit because I started making a name for myself and started fighting Top Rank, and now he just wants to jump in and try and steal all the glory, and I’m not about to let that happen.

“He’s getting the best Clay Collard there’s ever been. I’ve been training harder than ever. My diet’s down. I’ve been eating right, working hard every day, so he’s going to get the best version of me yet.”

During his current run, Collard has already handed four previously unbeaten fighters their first loss, and he says he looks forward to adding another name to that list. But while he’s enjoying quite the run in “the sweet science,” he’ll be back in four-ounce gloves next April as part of PFL’s 2021 season.

Collard thinks the time he’s spent focusing on boxing has helped him become a better mixed martial artist, as well.

“I think it’s helped my fight game all around, so I’m excited to take my newfound skills and showcase them in PFL,” Collard said. “I think 100 percent it’s helped me and refined me. My hands are faster. Now I just get to add all the other tricks and tools to that, so yeah, I think it’s done nothing but help.”

Collard said he’d like to continue competing in both sports but knows PFL isn’t likely to want him boxing once the promotion’s 2021 season gets underway. Shields is expected to do both next year, but that’s partially because she’ll take part in PFL feature fights rather than a full season.

Still, Collard joked, if she can do both, why can’t he?

“If they’re going to let Ms. Shields do it, then they better let me do it,” Collard said with a laugh. “If she gets to box, I better get to box, too – but we’ll see what happens.”

Regardless, Collard wants to let it be known that his time in boxing won’t end on Saturday. He’s hoping to squeeze in a few more bouts before the PFL season gets underway but said he’ll respect the promotion’s decision in regards to his schedule. However, once his mission is accomplished in the PFL, Collard wants to make a little history, and he believes he can be boxing champion, as well.

“I wouldn’t be doing it unless I believed I was able to get a belt,” Collard said. “I don’t do anything half-ass. I’m 100 percent in everything I do, so I’m gong to hopefully go take this PFL belt. Then I’m going to turnaround, and I want to take a belt in boxing, and I want to be the first to do it in both.”

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