When the list of people you’ve beaten includes the names Martin Kampmann, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Dave Menne, Yushin Okami, Hayato “Mach” Sakurai, Carlos Condit, Jason Miller and Paul Daley, it’s safe to say that you’ve been in some big fights.
But Jake Shields knows that his April 30th challenge of UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will be unlike any other.
“Without a doubt it will be the biggest,” said Shields, the number one contender at 170 pounds. “Fights don’t get much bigger than this.”
Don’t mistake that observation for intimidation though. Shields has been doing this sort of thing for 11 years now, and he has 26 wins to show for it. In fact, he hasn’t lost since 2005, a string covering 15 bouts. So it’s unlikely that 40,000 Canadians screaming for their hero will rattle the California product.
“You try not to think about the crowd,” he said. “It’s just gonna be me and Georges in that cage, so it doesn’t matter how many people are gonna be in the audience.”
St-Pierre is quite the handful in the Octagon though, and if his own winning streak (eight) and five title defenses aren’t enough, consider that he hasn’t lost as much as a round since August of 2007. Yet during that time, Shields, who was collecting title belts in the Elite XC and Strikeforce organizations, always had an eye on the pride of Montreal while envisioning a future fight.
“This is the fight I’ve wanted for years,” he said. “He (St-Pierre) has been a champ for a while in the UFC, and he’s the one everyone’s talking about as the best in the world. I’ve been over there thinking I can beat him for the last three, four years, and it’s been frustrating not having that opportunity. So to finally have this opportunity in front of me, I couldn’t be more excited.”
He plans on taking that excitement into the Octagon with him at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, and in doing so, he’ll look to send a message immediately that he didn’t come to just compete in one of the biggest MMA events of all-time, but to win the belt.
“It’s very important to go out there and get things started right away because GSP goes out there and he takes the fight right away and puts it where he wants it and that’s why he’s such a great fighter,” said Shields. “He goes out there from round one and dictates the pace and that’s something I’m not gonna let him do.”
And in addition to his stellar ground game (which has been used to secure ten of his 26 victories), Shields brings something that most of St-Pierre’s challengers haven’t – the experience of having gone the five round championship distance. And he’s gone the route not just once, but twice, in his wins over Henderson and Miller.
“I’m definitely glad I’ve fought five rounders before,” he said. “The first one you go into, it’s a big jump going two extra rounds, and having gone a couple five rounders now, it’s nice knowing that I can.”
The only thing missing for Shields now is a UFC championship belt.
“This is the whole reason I got in the sport,” said the 32-year old. “When I started 11 years ago, I was watching the UFC. It’s always been and still is my favorite show, and it’s always been the biggest and the best. The belts I have do mean something, but ultimately the belt of all belts is the UFC’s and that’s been my dream all along.”
So has he cleared some room in his trophy case?
“I got a spot on the top all ready for it.”
UFC 129's Challengers - Jake Shields
“This is the fight I’ve wanted for years. He (St-Pierre) has been a champ for a while in the UFC, and he’s the one everyone’s talking about as the best in the world."