Former Strikeforce 185 lb. middleweight champion, Jake Shields made his transition to welterweight during his move to the UFC at the request of his new boss Dana White, but following the close decision between himself and Martin Kampmann, many questioned if Shields was at his optimal weight. Shields talks with USA Today about his upcoming fight against the welterweight champ, and his future in the sport.
Q: You’ve had a pretty good career of your own — arguably you’ve had a better quality of opponents than GSP in some ways, given that you’ve beaten bigger guys. Why do you think you’re being viewed as such a heavy underdog?
Shields: He’s been in all the fights in the UFC, which gets all the attention. Also, my last fight was probably my worst fight in the last few years. So it’s probably a combination of those two.
You said you didn’t handle the weight cut properly for the Martin Kampmann fight. What did you do wrong there?
I’d been fighting up at ’85 and I got really big. When it came to drop the weight, I just did it too last minute and the muscle didn’t come off as fast as I thought.
I made a huge mistake there, but my weight’s down in place now. It’s 182, so I’m nice and light.
When you did move up to 185 for that period of time, was it difficult to put on that muscle?
Yeah, it was very difficult putting it on. I finally started feeling big when I fought (Dan) Henderson, and then it was difficult to take it off.
Moving up and down in weight is kind of a pain in the (butt), but hey, it’s something I’ll probably do again.
I know you’re aiming to have a nice, long reign at 170, but do you think at some point you might try the 185 waters again?
Yeah, I think I would. I’m always looking for challenges, so I’m going to go where the challenge is. If I’m successful at 170 and take that belt, I’ll probably start thinking about (it).
I’m in the sport to test myself. If I start getting bored, I really wouldn’t want to be here anymore. So yeah, I would definitely move up.
It sounds like you don’t fault GSP for thinking that if he is successful against you, it might be time to try another division.
Yeah, of course. He’s been the reigning champ for a long time. If I was in that situation, I would definitely want to move up.
But I plan on ruining that for him.
Let’s talk about that a bit. He’s an excellent counterwrestler who stuffs most takedown attempts against him. Why do you think he’s so effective doing that?
He’s got really good awareness and really good hips, and he’s really strong and he knows how to move. So he’s one of the best counterwrestlers in the business?
Do you think the guys who have fought him could have done things better to take him down, or is it just GSP being that good?
I think both. I think the guys who fought him could have done things, definitely, but I also think GSP’s really, really good. He’s able to shut guys down and dictate the pace.
What do you think the other guys ought to have done differently in trying to take him down?
(Josh) Koscheck did take him down early on, but after that, he only took a couple of shots. I think he got a little discouraged and his eye was hurt. He kind of didn’t push the pressure.
How do keep GSP from boxing you the same way?
Staying in his face. … Koscheck, once he got busted up a couple of times, kind of let GSP dictate the pace. That’s what he likes to do and that’s why it’s so effective. That’s what I don’t plan on letting him do.
It’s a natural reaction after getting busted up like that. How do you ensure that you won’t react the same way?
You can’t ensure everything in a fight, but I believe in my skill. I’ve been banging really hard and I’m ready for everything he can bring.