When Jake Shields steps inside the cage to face Dan Henderson this Saturday night (April 17) on CBS, he'll be doing so as somewhat of an anomaly.
It's not often we see a champion in mixed martial arts, or any other sport for that matter, come into a contest as such a prohibitive underdog.
Strikeforce's middleweight title will of course be on the line as Shields welcomes former Pride FC champion Dan Henderson to the promotion's fold.
And even though Jake is currently riding a 13-fight win streak spanning the course of nearly six years, the Cesar Gracie trained jiu-jitsu ace isn't expected to hold onto his belt. The primary reason for that... size.
How fitting right? Such a common theme in debating who is and who isn't the favorite in a particular athletic contest -- size -- seems to be the difference factor in this bout as well.
But not everybody is worried about the size aspect of this fight.
In anticipation of the main event title fight on CBS this weekend, Shields joined MMAmania.com's exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio to discuss Dan Henderson, his future in the fight game, fighting friends, and his time on The Ultimate Fighter.
In talking about what he sees in Dan Henderson as an opponent and where he thinks he holds an advantage, Shields points to his strong ground game as the difference.
"If he's thinking that he's better than me everywhere, he's gonna be in for a big surprise when it hits the ground. My jiu-jitsu game is far better than his. I think if we go to the ground I have a big advantage. I know he's a great wrestler so I can't just plan on putting him on his back. I've been working an all aspects though. I know he has a lot of power in his hands, but I see some holes in his stand up game and will be looking to take advantage of them too."
As far as the stepping up to 185 lbs. and whether or not he sees it as a disadvantage in this fight, Jake says there will be no excuses coming out of this fight regardless of what happens.
"If I lose this fight I could always say that I'm a real 170 pounder, but that would be weak. If I lose, it has nothing to do with weight. I chose to take this fight so it's my responsibly to own it."
Despite currently owning the Strikeforce middleweight title and having the chance to defend it in just a few short days, Shields still feels as though 170 is his best weight.
"Strikeforce has a stronger 185 lbs. roster than 170 lbs., so that's why I moved up, for the challenge. And when Henderson came over I just had to take that fight. It's a huge opportunity to fight one of the top guys in the sport. But I still think I'm one of the best in the world at 170 lbs. too. There are three or four really good guys at the top that could beat anybody on any given day and I think I'm one of them."
Of course the question on everyone's mind, whether he likes it or not, is his future. Will he stay with the organization that helped him rise to the top, or make the jump to the world's biggest MMA promotion? Shields says that even he doesn't know for sure what's in store.
"There is still a few more months on this contract, I guess they could try to rush me into one more fight, but odds are this will be the last fight on this contract. I'd love to fight with the best in the sport in the UFC, but Strikeforce has treated me really well. They have me fighting on CBS. I just want to get through this fight and then see what happens."
A common topic of discussion regarding the 170 lbs. division is friends fighting friends, in particular, the boys at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Mike Swick have all said that they will never fight each other, which ultimately could lead to a bit of a logjam in the division. Asked if he would have any problem fighting those guys, who he regularly trains with, Jake said he'd be all for it.
"I'd fight them for sure. Yeah, they're my friends and sparring partners, but having to fight them has always been in the back of my mind. I couldn't really come to the UFC and say who I am or am not going to fight. Those guys are a little closer to each other than me, but if I had to fight them, I would. Of course it sucks fighting your friends. But I think you have to look at it from a business standpoint."
Strikeforce on CBS isn't the only place to find Shields these days. He can currently be seen coaching alongside his good friend Chuck Liddell on TUF 11. So what does he make of Chuck and Tito's ever-lasting feud? Jake says it's more than legit and that even he isn't Tito's biggest fan.
"They don't care for each other that's for sure. There's not very many people Chuck doesn't like, but he really can't stand Tito. He's the only guy I know that gets under Chuck's skin. I don't really care for him either. I think he's a prick and would love to smack him in his head a bit, but I kinda have to get a long with him."
And now that he has the experience of being on The Ultimate Fighter, Shields says that it would be a perfect way for the UFC to bring him into the promotion, should he choose to go that route.
"I think that'd be an awesome way to bring me on, to coach against Georges St. Pierre. I'm well known in the MMA community, but the people that just know the UFC probably don't know me. I'd love for that to be the way the UFC goes about bringing me in if I would choose to sign with them. Tell Dana, that's a great idea."
Though I have to admit it is a pretty good thought, first things first for the current Strikeforce champion. A date with Dan Henderson this Saturday at Strikeforce: Nashville on CBS at 9 p.m. ET. But regardless of what happens in that fight, you best believe Jake Shields will be one of the hottest free agents in the sport in a matter of weeks.
For complete Strikeforce: Nashville coverage, click here.