Jake Shields went from the No. 1 contender to the UFC welterweight title to just trying to get himself back on track following a difficult 2011. To begin the new year, Shields will travel to Japan to face Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 in February.
Shields suffered a decision loss to UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, and was knocked out by Jake Ellenberger in his next fight. Between those two tough losses, Shields suffered an even bigger setback, as his father, Jack, passed away.
“It’s just one of those things,” said Shields, in a recent interview with UFC.com. “I got a little anxious out there and kinda walked into a knee (against Ellenberger), and it could have happened at any time. Obviously, things possibly could have been different, you just never know. Jake’s a good power puncher and one of those guys you make one mistake and you can walk into something.”
In welcoming Akiyama to the welterweight division, Shields hopes 2012 is a year to remember for himself in MMA.
“It (2011) has definitely been a tough year, but I’m hoping to bounce back and be a lot stronger in 2012,” Shields said. “(Akiyama) is a tough guy and I’m not taking him lightly.”