Jake Shields (25-4-1) is in a very advantageous position. The Strikeforce Middleweight Champion finished the last fight on his Strikeforce contract by dominating MMA legend Dan Henderson (25-8), who was making his Strikeforce debut at “Strikeforce: Nashville” on April 17, 2010.
Shields vs. Henderson was a supremely significant fight for the Cesar Gracie disciple. Dan Henderson is the only fighter who ever willingly left the UFC to fight for Strikeforce. UFC President Dana White did not feel Henderson deserved the amount of money he was asking for, and let him go.
Strikeforce obviously paid a pretty penny for the former Olympian, and many thought they were bringing him in as a type of “hired gun” to lower Shields’ bargaining power. There were rumors that Shields was interested in going to the UFC and the UFC was interested in him.
If Henderson defeated Shields, then Strikeforce killed three birds with one stone by signing a legend, sending Shields away as a loser, and ushering in their new champion, thus proving all the money they paid for Henderson was worth it.
Shields had other ideas. He proved once and for all, if there had been any doubt, he was among the sport’s elite. If Strikeforce was going to let him walk away, he was walking away a champion. And if the UFC picked him up, they were buying a legitimate top five middleweight and top ten pound-for-pound fighter.
ProMMAnow.com spoke to MMA’s number one free agent this week to find out how it feels to be embarking on this new phase of his career. We talked hypothetically, if he does sign with the UFC, which weight class he would prefer, middleweight or welterweight, and which champion he feels is the better match-up for him, Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre.
Will Shields definitely sign with the UFC? Why does it seem Strikeforce is not doing all they can to keep their champion? Shields discussed all this and much more.
It’s nice to have options.
ProMMAnow.com: Hi Jake, thank you for speaking with us today at ProMMAnow.com . Is this an exciting time for you; do you feel like you are about to embark on a new adventure and phase of your career?
Jake Shields: Ya, I feel like there’s a lot of good things happening. Definitely a good time.
ProMMAnow.com: It seems rumors were circulating right away that you had already signed with the UFC. For the record, as of now, you have not yet signed with the UFC. Is that correct?
Jake Shields: No, we haven’t signed with anyone yet. We’re in negotiations. We’ve just reached the period when we can talk to them.
ProMMAnow.com: For those who may not be familiar with the process, can you explain how the “matching period” works and how long the “matching period” for your Strikeforce contract lasts?
Jake Shields: My manager knows more about that. But there’s a period of time when Strikeforce can match any other offer if they want. I’m not exactly sure of how long that is.
ProMMAnow.com: One report stated that “technically” you are not a free agent until the matching period has ended. Would you say that is correct?
Jake Shields: I guess “free agent” would really be when there’s no more contractual obligation, so ya, that would be right.
ProMMAnow.com: If you had the choice of fighting Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva, which one do you think would be the better match-up for you and why?
Jake Shields: They’d both be great opponents. They’re two of the best.
ProMMAnow.com: If you do end up signing with the UFC, do you think you would like to continue fighting at middleweight, or would welterweight also be an option?
Jake Shields: I’m feeling good at either weight right now. I started feeling pretty good at 185 on my last fight, but I can go back down if I want.
ProMMAnow.com: From your perspective, why do you think Strikeforce does not seem to be fighting tooth and nail to keep their middleweight champion? Obviously, as you have proved, you are among the elite of the elite in this sport. Why does it seem Strikeforce is not doing everything they can to keep you, in your opinion?
Jake Shields: Maybe they think it’s a done deal that I’m going to UFC, because that’s the way the media plays it. But I know my manager is talking with them. Scott [Coker] has given me good opportunities. He got me the opponents I wanted and I was on four of the five CBS shows. It’s all been good. But I won’t know my decision until the final offers are in.
ProMMAnow.com: Truthfully, is there anything that Strikeforce could do at this point to keep you, or does knowing by going elsewhere you are going to have the opportunity to consistently test and prove yourself against MMA’s best override anything Strikeforce could offer?
Jake Shields: Well, there’s a lot of different things to a contract, so you have to look at the whole thing. It’s a matter of money, good fights, and exposure. We’re just looking for the right balance. Mainly we’ll just have to look at everything and see what looks best for my career.
ProMMAnow.com: From what I understand, you were one of the instructors at Paradise Warrior Retreat at the MMA Expo in Ontario, Canada. What was that like?
Jake Shields: It was this weekend June 12 and 13. The Canadian fans were really cool. I met a lot of really good people, the Toronto MMA Expo was fun and I had a great time.
ProMMAnow.com: Jake, thank you for taking time to speak with us. I know this must be an exciting time for you, and we really look forward to seeing you back in action. Is there any sponsors you would like to thank, or would you like to send any shout-outs?