Jake Shields (28–4–1) is one of only a handful of mixed martial artists who have managed to become stars domestically fighting outside the UFC.
To the casual MMA fan his name may not be all that familiar ... yet. On the other hand, the hardcore fans and media know full well he’s one of the top fighters in the world regardless of what organization he’s currently fighting for.
The 30-year-old is currently on a 12-fight win streak that dates back to November 2005, which includes victories over quality opponents such as Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Mike Pyle, Nick Thompson, Paul Daley and Robbie Lawler, among others.
His last fight against Lawler under the Strikeforce banner was at a catchweight of 182 pounds as he began his transition from his natural weight class at the welterweight limit of 170 pounds to the 185 pound middleweight class to pursue bigger fights.
The man standing in his way of making it 13 in a row is a very seasoned, very dangerous Jason "Mayhem" Miller (22–6, 1 no contest).
The fight will be for the vacated Strikeforce middleweight championship formerly held by Cung Le, which Le won by defeating Frank Shamrock way back in March 2008, but he never once defended it because has been more involved in the movie business than mixed martial arts.
As a result, Shields and Mayhem will collide at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., for the title on Nov. 7. The event will be broadcast live on CBS to a massive nationwide audience.
A victory for Shields would add another belt to his growing collection that includes championships in Rumble on the Rock, Shooto, and EliteXC. A loss would send him back to the drawing board to evaluate his options as he inches closer toward the end of his current fight contract.
Shields took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about a wide range of subjects, including the possibility of going after two Strikeforce belts, avoiding nicknames, the signing of Herschel Walker, Mayhem Miller, and UFC champion Georges St. Pierre.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What was your take on the Shogun Rua/Lyoto Machida fight at UFC 104?
Jake Shields: I thought it was a good technical fight. I had Shogun winning. It was a close fight. I gave at least three rounds to Shogun. I had two rounds that I pretty much gave a draw. If I was a judge I would’ve given it to Shogun.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): The 10-point must scoring system is always up for debate after a fight like that one. Do you like the way the current scoring system is or think it should be changed?
Jake Shields: It’s really tough to score a fight in general. One problem is that the 10-point must system weighs too much on the last round, which isn’t fair either. I think more than the system, it’s the judges. I think we need judges that know the sport. These guys get paid to judge and people bring their buddies in who don’t know anything about the sport to judge. I think they need to fix that more than the actual judging system.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In your last fight you were able to submit Robbie Lawler in the first round, but what impressed me the most was your stand up leading up to the submission. Do you feel like you were winning the stand up battle prior to the grappling?
Jake Shields: Yeah, I definitely did. I thought I was doing really good out there, but I went back and watched the announcers and they talked about how bad I was losing, but if you watch it I wasn’t. I think they had their minds made up about my stand up (beforehand). Frank Shamrock was going off about how I was in trouble, but it looked like I was landing a lot more shots than Robbie was, in my opinion.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Is your stand up something you’ve been focusing on extra hard in your training?
Jake Shields: Yeah, the last two years I focused a lot on my stand up trying to catch up. Grappling is still my stronger point. I work a lot on my stand up and feel a lot more comfortable there.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You’re no stranger to fighting on CBS; however, this time it’s not the Kimbo Slice show that Elite XC was promoting, it’s the Fedor Emelianenko show. Talk about that dynamic.
Jake Shields: I think it’s awesome to be fighting on the card with Fedor Emelianenko. He’s one of my favorite fighters of all time. He’s the headliner but to be the co-headliner is quite an honor to be fighting alongside him. I’m really excited about it. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the promo for it so I hope it gets good ratings.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Have you ever seen Fedor fight in person?
Jake Shields: I actually have. I had the opportunity to go see him twice. I saw him in Japan fight the giant Korean guy (Hong Man Choi). I also saw him fight Andrei Arlovski in Affliction. He’s awesome to watch live.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Will you be coming out of your locker room to watch him fight after yours?
Jake Shields: I definitely plan on watching it as long as I’m not banged up. I plan on just going in the back and doing what I have to do and hopefully they’ll let me come out and watch. Sometimes athletic commissions won’t let you run back out so hopefully they’ll let me.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Strikeforce signed a guy recently who made his name outside the sport of MMA in Herschel Walker. I wanted to get your thoughts on his signing.
Jake Shields: Personally, I think it’s a good sign. Most people criticize it, obviously, but a guy like that is a phenomenal athlete. He’s a well known guy. He certainly shouldn’t be headlining any cards like Kimbo Slice was, but I think he definitely deserves a spot in Strikeforce. Maybe the first televised fight of the night or something. He’s obviously established himself as a great athlete. Hopefully he’s taking the sport seriously and he’ll go out there and maybe actually be a decent fighter.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You’re scheduled to face Jason "Mayhem" Miller on November 7. You guys did two episodes on MTV’s Bully Beatdown together. Did you guys get a chance to know each other at all during or outside filming?
Jake Shields: I’ve actually known Mayhem for years. We’re friends but it’s not like we’re great friends or anything. When I see him we’ll talk. It’s not like we call each other on the phone and catch up with each other. I like the guy, but I have no problem trying to break his nose.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): It’s conceivable you could beat the crap out of each other for five rounds and then go have a drink together afterwards?
Jake Shields: Yeah, definitely. I plan on winning the fight, but if for some chance I lost I wouldn’t be bitter. It’s not personal. It’s just a fight and I think we’re both aware of that. It’s related to the business. Sometimes you have to beat up people that are your friends.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Both of you have the majority of your career wins by submission. You’re both great on the ground. A lot of the time this translates into a stand up battle. Is it possible we see you two going toe-to-toe the whole time?
Jake Shields: It’s possible. I don’t think for 25 minutes. I think at some point one of us will go for takedowns because we’re both grapplers. He’ll go for a takedown and then I’ll go for a takedown, but I wouldn’t mind doing a little stand up with him either. I think this is the fight that people could see anything. I’m certainly willing to fight anywhere and I think he probably is too.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Besides your own gym in Berkeley, Calif., where has your training camp been taking place at for this fight?
Jake Shields: Over at Cesar’s gym. Cesar Gracie’s gym is about 30 minutes from here. Nick and Nate Diaz and Gil Melendez have been coming a lot and they come into my gym. I went down to LA for a little bit working at Wild Card Boxing. I went a few places but the majority of the training at my gym and Cesar’s.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I know you train at American Kickboxing Academy from time to time as well. I would think that has to help you out a ton with the stable of quality welterweights they have in Fitch, Koscheck and Swick. Do you concur?
Jake Shields: It’s definitely good, hard sparring. I don’t go there too much just because there’s a good chance I’ll fight some of those guys. They’re not my friends, but it’s just a situation where there are a lot of top fighters there, so I’m sure at some point I’ll fight somebody from that gym. Definitely a lot of talented guys there.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Are you still finding it hard to gain solid weight to try to fill out as a 185’er while continuous training?
Jake Shields: I put some weight on in between fights but once you’re training hard for a fight it’s pretty much impossible to put too much solid weight on. You’re training it all off. I’m eating a lot. I got a chance to catch a sponsor now that has some awesome products. That has helped me gain some weight and keep it lean.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your weight now and what do you expect to weigh in at on November 7?
Jake Shields: I’ll weigh in at 185, but I’m walking around at about 193, which is where I was at earlier today. Definitely small for 185 still, but at least I have to cut a few pounds.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You’re not exactly doing the Anthony Johnson weight cut though.
Jake Shields: That guy is massive. He could probably fight 185. I saw him about a month ago and I was like, "You’re coming to 170’s?" He was like over 200 when I saw him.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Your style of jiu-jitsu is American jiu-jitsu. Tell me the difference between that and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Jake Shields: A few small changes. I have an American wrestling background and a black belt in Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu. It’s minus the gi and it’s a combination of the two. Not enough people mix the wrestling and the jiu-jitsu. I think they’re both crucial so I combined the two. It’s a lot more high paced jiu-jitsu. It’s not about waiting. Jiu-jitsu is about waiting for your opponents to make mistakes. I’m about forcing your opponents to make mistakes.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Before Mayhem signed on for your fight Frank Shamrock was a potential opponent for you as well. Why did that fight never materialize?
Jake Shields: I don’t think Shamrock wants any part of me. He’s past his prime. After the beating that Nick Diaz gave him he had a reality check. I think maybe he was thinking he could still fight young, tough fighters and it was really a wake up call. Now he will want to try to fight older guys or some B-level fighters. I don’t expect Frank to ever want to fight me at this point.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You seem to have avoided a nickname up to this point even though you’ve been around a while. Are you just praying that something ridiculous doesn’t stick to you at this point?
Jake Shields: (Laughs) Exactly. People try to give me nicknames and I keep pushing them away. I’m not against taking a nickname if it was a cool nickname with a meaning. I don’t want one of these ridiculous nicknames just for the sake of having one. I don’t want to be like "Darth" Bader or "The Dean of Mean" Jardine. Those are cool guys and all but those nicknames are like, really?
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Don’t forget "The Dream Catcher" Gegard Mousasi.
Jake Shields: Yeah, I don’t know where they come up with these nicknames. They just pick anything. I don’t think everyone needs a nickname.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I talked to Jon Fitch about this a few months ago. He basically said it has to come from your friends or teammates and nothing has ever stuck but, on the other hand, he can’t just show up at the gym and tell everyone to call him Cobra or something like that.
Jake Shields: (Laughs) I think that’s what a lot of guys are doing nowadays. They think they found a cool nickname and then come in and are like, "hey, this is my nickname."
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Moving forward, how many fights left on your current contract if you don’t mind saying?
Jake Shields: I think it’s one or two after this fight. My dad handles the exact contract. I’m not that sure right now, but I know it’s not too many. There’s also a time clause on it.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Are you interested in going after not only the middleweight belt but the Strikeforce welterweight belt as well?
Jake Shields: I would like to do that. I think that would be awesome to take both. I don’t know what Strikeforce wants to do. I think they kind of want different champs, but I would certainly be willing to fight for both. There’s also the problem with Nick Diaz fighting in Strikeforce as well. I don’t want to try to cut in and step on his toes. If the opportunity was right and it wouldn’t block Nick I would definitely fight for both belts.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Strikeforce seems to be having problems with guys not defending their belts. What would justify stripping a guy of his belt in your opinion?
Jake Shields: I guess you have to look at it fighter for fighter to figure out what the reasons are to figure out if they’re legitimate. I think if someone hasn’t defended it in a year that’s long enough. A lot of these guys have legitimate reasons like Josh Thomson. I know Josh. He legitimately broke his foot a couple times so what are you going to do? You don’t really want to strip someone in that situation, but if someone is not fighting it can get kind of ridiculous too.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Cung Le and Alistair Overeem, on the other hand, are different situations.
Jake Shields: Oh yeah. Cung Le definitely needed to be stripped. Nothing against Cung Le but you can’t just hold onto a belt and not fight, and then say you want to do movies or say you’ll only fight if they give you an easy fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Right now people are having a tough time figuring out who can beat Georges St. Pierre in the UFC now that he’s run through the majority of their 170’s. Is he still a guy you’d like to test your skills against someday?
Jake Shields: Definitely. I’d love to fight GSP one day. Right now I’m here with Strikeforce and worried about fights that are realistic. That’s a dream fight. I hope he keeps winning and I keep winning so at some point that fight becomes a reality.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Assuming the UFC continues to have the majority of the top welterweights in the world moving forward, will your career be complete if you don’t have a UFC belt when it’s all said and done?
Jake Shields: It would be nice to get that UFC belt but it all depends on what Strikeforce does too. Right now they’re doing really good things. I’ve heard rumors about guys like Dan Henderson. They’re treating me really good so I’m just going to take it one step at a time. It would be awesome to have that UFC belt but that’s not my ultimate goal either.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Before we go would you like to pass along a message to your fans out there or thank any sponsors?
Jake Shields: Thanks to all the fans for the support. I want to thank Champion Nutrition, Tapout, Rockstar Energy Drink and EA Sports. And my whole team and trainers. Without them I wouldn’t be fighting.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Appreciate the time. Thank you again. I’ll see you up in Chicago for the fight.
Jake Shields: Awesome. It was no problem at all. I’ll see you in Chicago.
Derek Bolender is an MMA contributor to MMAmania.com, CBSSports.com, BleacherReport.com, and InsideFights.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter and Facebook.com/Derek.Bolender.