Newly acquired UFC welterweight Jake Shields, who recently exited the Strikeforce promotion as Middleweight Champion, is scheduled to make his UFC debut against Martin Kampmann at UFC 121 this October. Many speculated over which weight class the multi-divisional fighter would eventually compete in and rumors spread that Shields was looking to debut at middleweight, possibly for an immediate title shot against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. When it was announced that Shields would be debuting as a 170-pounder some believed that to be the result of pressure from the UFC; who were, speculatively, looking to shake up the stagnating welterweight contender pool with Shields’ addition to the division. Shields spoke with MMAWeekly.com to refute those rumors, saying that the decision of which weight class to compete in was always his to make.
“I was pretty undecided the whole time,” said Sheilds. “I just wanted big fights, and I know GSP is tied up with the Koscheck fight, so I was thinking maybe going to ’85 since my weight’s already up.”
Shields parted ways with Strikeforce after defeating Dan Henderson, who himself had recently ditched the UFC for Strikeforce. Having successfully defended his belt against a high-profile UFC veteran in what was incidentally the last fight on his contract(and by avoiding the inclusion of a “championship clause” in said contract) Shields became a highly sought-after free agent, eventually signing with the UFC. Having had so much recent success at middleweight (with wins over Jason Miller and Robbie Lawler backing up the Henderson victory) it was a surprise to some to see Shields opting to drop back down to welterweight, but Shields claimed that it was solely the result of being offered an interesting fight and taking it.
“They called and asked if I wanted (Martin Kampmann) at ’70 and I said sure,” said the Cesar Gracie product. “They didn’t give me any pressure; they gave me the option. Some people were saying I was forced to go down, which certainly wasn’t the case. They said I could fight at either weight, but they offered me a fight at ’70, and I was like I might as well jump and take it.”
Coming into the UFC as a champion in a smaller but still high-profile fight organization, it is understandable why Shields is searching for a title shot to come sooner rather than later. Kampmann is high up on the UFC’s welterweight contenders list and, depending on a victory and his performance, could conceivably push Shields into a title match with current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre. Sheilds said that, even though he has not yet been informed of the implications of his bout with Kampmann, proximity to a title shot was one of the biggest factors in play when determining which division he would ultimately join.
“Obviously if I’m close to getting a title shot it’s a huge factor,” Shields said. “I’m not really sure if this is going to be a number one contender’s fight or not, it hasn’t been mentioned to me, but there’s a good chance if I go out there and look really good doing it, it’s definitely a possibility.”
Shields has a stiff test in front of himself in Martin Kampmann and will have the opportunity to prove himself worthy of a title shot by defeating the hardworking Dane come (unofficially) October 23rd at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Also expected to appear on the card is UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, who will be defending his heavyweight belt for the third time against hungry challenger Cain Velasquez. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz, who will be squaring off against former student Matt Hamill. Diego Sanchez will attempt to bounce back from a UFC 114 loss to John Hathaway by taking on Brazilian welterweight Paulo Thiago and heavyweights Brendan Schaub and Gabriel Gonzaga will be clashing as well.