Hartlepool boxer Savannah Marshall's message to old foe Claressa Shields after MMA debut win

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Hartlepool world champion boxer Savannah Marshall enjoyed a successful mixed martial arts (MMA) debut after some nervy moments.

The undisputed super-middleweight world champion survived early takedowns from Brazilian opponent Mirela Vargas before resorting to punching power to secure a first-round victory.

With old boxing foe Claressa Shields watching the action at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle, Marshall reiterated her hope that the pair will soon meet in a Professional Fighters League (PFL) cage.

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She said: “Are we getting it on in the cage or what? Let's do it. Full MMA rules.”

Savannah Marshall is declared the winner after a first-round knockout against Mirela Vargas in their Women's lightweight bout during the PFL Europe 2 night at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle.Savannah Marshall is declared the winner after a first-round knockout against Mirela Vargas in their Women's lightweight bout during the PFL Europe 2 night at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle.
Savannah Marshall is declared the winner after a first-round knockout against Mirela Vargas in their Women's lightweight bout during the PFL Europe 2 night at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle.

She then stepped up a weight to secure the super-middleweight crown by defeating Franchon Crews-Dezurn in Manchester last July before turning her attentions to MMA.

Arriving in the cage on Saturday night in a Newcastle United football shirt for her PFL debut, Marshall was quickly felled twice by her opponent before unleashing a tirade of punches to force a stoppage win.

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Describing the experience as “brutal”, she said afterwards: “I just remember thinking ‘get up, get up’.

Hartlepool fighter Savannah Marshall walks out in a Newcastle United shirt before the women's lightweight bout against Mirela Vargas during the PFL Europe 2 night at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle.Hartlepool fighter Savannah Marshall walks out in a Newcastle United shirt before the women's lightweight bout against Mirela Vargas during the PFL Europe 2 night at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle.
Hartlepool fighter Savannah Marshall walks out in a Newcastle United shirt before the women's lightweight bout against Mirela Vargas during the PFL Europe 2 night at the Utilita Arena, in Newcastle.

"Fair play to Mirela. She is a lot better than what YouTube says. A hell of a lot better.

"But it just goes to show. I resorted straight back to my punching stance.

"She caught me with that leg sweep twice and I remember going down on the floor and her knee missed by head by that much and I thought ‘bloody hell, she could have took my head off’.

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"But fair play to her. She is a tough, tough girl. But I caught with some heavy shots and she was thrown back.”

Savannah Marshall, centre, defeated Mirela Vargas in her first MMA fight on Saturday.Savannah Marshall, centre, defeated Mirela Vargas in her first MMA fight on Saturday.
Savannah Marshall, centre, defeated Mirela Vargas in her first MMA fight on Saturday.

As for a rematch with Shields – who has a cage record of two victories and one defeat – a choice of venue has been considered a potential sticking point after the American expressed a preference for a States fight.

But Marshall insisted after her Newcastle win: “We could go to Saudi, we could go anywhere. I really am not bothered.”

Describing Shields as resembling a “starfish” after she was felled in a previous fight, she added: “That is how you get up off the floor.”