Jake Shields is in unfamiliar territory as he prepares for his bout against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 this weekend. Not only is he on a two -losing streak for the first time in his twelve-year career but he is also fighting in Japan for the first time since December 14, 2004. That night he lost to Akira Kikuchi via Unanimous Decision for the Shooto organization, the last time he’d been defeated until he dropping a decision to UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 in April of 2011.
Between those two losses Shields rattled off an astounding fifteen straight wins which covered a span of nearly six-and-a-half years. Shields captured titles in Rumble on the Rock, EliteXC, and Strikeforce during that time. He defeated some of the very best the sport had to offer including Dave Menne, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, Dan Henderson, and Martin Kampmann. Yet despite all of his accomplishments, fans and pundits always seemed to find ways to criticize the Ceser Gracie trained fighter.
He was boring, he didn’t finish enough fights – you name it and someone, somewhere, said it about Shields. If they took the time they would have realized that out of those fifteen wins he finished seven of his opponents. The reality is, when you are fighting the very best in the world it can be very difficult to put them away. There’s no shame in dominating a guy like Henderson in the fashion that Shields did when the two met at Strikeforce: Nashville in 2010.
After the loss to St. Pierre, Shields was forced to deal with a loss both in the cage and outside of it as his father, manager and best friend Jack passed away less than three weeks before he was scheduled to meet surging welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger. While most fighters would have bowed out of the contest, Shields chose to soldier on, because as he put it, that’s what his dad would have wanted. Unfortunately, Ellenberger made quick work of Shields defeating him in just 53 seconds. Now he’s back in the land of the rising run to face Akiyama this Saturday and attempt to break back in the win column. A loss on Saturday will put a ton of pressure on Shields, but he’s ready for the challenge.
“I feel great, everything is going good right now,” Shields said in an exclusive interview with MMATraining.com. “I’ve been down in Florida training with some of the guys managed by Glenn Robinson of Authentic Sports Management (The Blackzilian Team). I’m just looking to stay healthy and get over to Japan and put on a great fight for the fans. I’ve fought in Japan before so I’ll leave the Monday before the fight and get used to the time change. I’d rather fight in North America, but I’m excited about fighting in front of the Japanese fans once again.”
For any fighter it’s always tough to deal with a loss, for the guys who fight in the UFC dropping two straight could put your job in jeopardy. Even if Shields were to lose to Akiyama and suffer his third loss in a row the UFC would more than likely give him another shot to right the ship, but as far as Shields is concerned he just wants to win. That’s all he ever sets out to do and it’s time to put the losses in the rear-view mirror. There’s no time to think about what could have been and certainly no time for regrets.
“Dealing with the losses was tough, but that’s behind me,” said the former Strikeforce middleweight champion. “I am feeling really good now and I’m putting all of my focus on this fight in front of me. After winning so many fights and not losing for all those years it was a bit difficult at first, but I’ve had an awesome training camp and things are going really good for me. 2011 is over and I’m ready to have a great 2012.
“As far as the Ellenberger fight is concerned, obviously there were a lot of difficult things going on in my life, but I have no excuses,” Shields continued. “It’s simple, I lost the fight, and I wish the outcome was different, but it is what it is. I made the decision to go through with the fight and I have to live with the outcome.”
As a two division champion, Shields has spent time at both welterweight and middleweight. He made the decision to fight at 185 in Strikeforce because his friend and long time training partner Nick Diaz was competing at 170. In his UFC debut he had a tough weight cut and it almost cost him the fight against Kampmann. Now Akiyama is fighting for the first time in the welterweight division, does Shields believe that “Sexyama” will be in store for some surprises during his weight cut?
“It’s really a tough call for Akiyama,” offered Shields. “It all depends on how he goes about the cut. If he does it the right way he should be fine as 170 is probably the ideal weight for him to be fighting at, but you never know how the cut will go. He’s a great fighter and he’s coming off a couple of losses as well, but other than Vitor (Belfort) catching him all of his fights have been close. It should be a great fight and a win for either of us could put us in title contention.”
Although he may be a bit biased because of the close relationship he shares with Diaz, he is still a knowledgeable mixed martial artist and is capable of giving an educated opinion on a fight. Many people have said Diaz won the match-up with Condit at UFC 143 and just as many have said Condit eked out the win. Shields had his thoughts on the outcome and how the fight went down. Being that he is around Diaz a lot, Shields also had something to say about whether or not Diaz will retire like he promised.
“It was definitely a close and controversial fight,” opined Shields. “To be honest with you I really thought Nick won the fight. I don’t think you can win a fight by running for five rounds the way Condit did. The judges and Joe Rogan thought differently and although Condit landed more strikes most of them were leg kicks that inflicted little to no damage. Diaz was the aggressor and controlled the pace of the fight. It’s just one of those fights that everyone has their own opinion on. I’m not sure if he’ll fight again, he’s a good friend of mine and I certainly hope he’ll come back. He does what he wants to do and it’s is his choice. He’s young and he’s a great fighter, but he does things on his own terms.”
With the losses behind him and a tough opponent in front of him Shields is ready to start a new winning streak, but he’s preparing to do it one fight at a time. Losing one’s father is difficult for anyone to deal with, but when you were as close as Jake was with his dad, it’s a bit tougher to overcome. The best way to honor his dad is inside the octagon, putting his best foot forward and doing what he does best, winning fights.
“I’m ready to show my fans the best Jake Shields ever come this Saturday night,” Shields said very excitedly. “I have had a great training camp, I feel incredible and I just want to show everyone that I still belong at the top. I want to prove that I am still among the best of the best. This is going to be a fantastic fight between two fighters needing a win. I’m prepared to go out there and show why I’ve been as successful as I have been throughout the years.”
Make sure to catch Shields-Akiyama as part of an incredible seven-fight main card featuring Frankie Edgar defending his lightweight belt in the main event against streaking contender Benson Henderson.