When opportunity knocks, you answer the call, especially when you’re in the business of knocking people out.

Two-division champion Savannah Marshall’s business throughout her career has been boxing, but she will sidestep the sweet science for a sabbatical in the cage when she makes her MMA debut against Mirela Vargas (1-2) on Saturday during PFL Europe at the Utilita Arena in Newcastle, England.

Marshall, the "Silent Assassin" from Hartlepool, County Durham, United Kingdom, hopes a successful MMA venture will lead to a rematch against Claressa Shields in the cage.

Marshall (13-1, 10 KOs) lost a competitive unanimous decision versus Shields in October 2022 for the undisputed middleweight title. She followed up the fight by beating Franchon Crews-Dezurn in a majority decision for the undisputed super middleweight crown in July. 

“It was just the opportunity [from the PFL to fight in MMA] – something I hadn't considered before,” Marshall told BoxingScene. “I was supposed to box in March, and the PFL came to me for June 8, along with a potential matchup against Claressa Shields in the cage. That's what got me excited. … Nothing is promised. It could happen. There is potential there, hopefully.

“I'm in a Catch-22 – there is no one really for me to fight in boxing aside from rematches with Franchon and Claressa. The PFL opportunity is coming at the perfect time. I can give it a go with PFL and see where it goes.”

The MMA crossover has been a complicated one at times for Marshall.

“Preparation for [five-minute rounds] has been really hard. It's been a hard transition,” said Marshall, who has been training alongside interim UFC heavyweight champion Tom Aspinal.

“I've got a knockout punch, and if I catch anyone clean I'm going to hurt them. 

“To be honest, I massively underestimated how hard it would be to transition. I went in there thinking it would be a piece of cake, but that has not been the case at all. It has been a total overhaul for me. I've been boxing for over 20 years, so it's new, exciting and refreshing. I've really enjoyed it.”

Marshall is 33 years old and has been boxing professionally for seven years. 

She now finds herself at a career crossroads in two different fighting disciplines. 

“Boxing is still my first love,” Marshall said. “I think we are going to have to wait and see what happens June 8. It could be, 'Wow, this is me now, and we are going to have a good go at this.' Or it will be, 'God, this isn't for me.’ 

“Financially, it's not a lucrative opportunity. It was just the opportunity to try something new. Don't get me wrong, the PFL are looking after me. It's just the opportunities that are coming off the back of it. I think MMA is bigger than boxing worldwide, and it's sad to say. I really do ... the opportunities are better.” 

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.