Anybody who makes their way to the level of fighting in the UFC undoubtedly has pressure put on them when they hit the big stage. Now compound that by the fact that you were the highest stakes free agent since Fedor Emelianenko, you’re coming off a win over Dan Henderson on CBS, and you’ve been told that with a win you’re likely going to get a title fight in your second fight with the organization.
Welcome to the world of Jake Shields.
The former Strikeforce and Elit XC champion makes his UFC debut this weekend in Anaheim, Calif., and the pressure is on to prove that all of his past work paid off, and that the hype around Jake Shields is for real. While some people have crumbled under the pressure that comes with that kind of hype, Shields believes that when the squeeze is on, he will become a diamond and not dust.
“Everyone’s talking about it. I’m definitely the (first) guy in a long time at least coming in with the most hype in the UFC so it is a lot of pressure,” Shields admitted when talking to MMAWeekly Radio prior to the fight. “People want to see you lose, people want to see you win, and I definitely feel it, but I feel like I deal with pressure. I’m going to go out there, I think I’ve been here and I’ll thrive under the pressure and try to show people I belong.”
Like a basketball player taking the final shot as time runs off the clock, Shields has already proven he is a winner when the moment counts. As he headed into his fight against Dan Henderson in April, Shields was on the verge of free agency and instead of securing his future with a new deal, he rolled the dice, took on a top ranked fighter that was supposed to destroy him and he went on to win a one-sided unanimous decision.
Shields admits that it’s a funny feeling going from a huge underdog in the Henderson fight to a favorite in his upcoming fight against Martin Kampmann, but he believes he will excel no matter what.
“A ton of pressure going into the (Dan) Henderson fight, I was going in there being a free agent after that fight. Knowing that Strikeforce wanted me to lose, so there was definitely pressure on that fight,” Shields said.
“It’s completely weird to be the big underdog to the big favorite. I almost like being the underdog. You almost have more pressure when you’re expected to win, but either way, I just try not to pay attention to what people are saying, whether it’s good or bad. Obviously, if they’re counting you out, you don’t want to count yourself out, and if everyone’s saying you’re going to win you don’t want to take that either because I’m sure your opponent isn’t looking at it that way.”
His opponent, Martin Kampmann, is as dangerous as they come. A top ten ranked fighter who has picked up wins over several top opponents including Carlos Condit and most recently Paulo Thiago. Shields was happy to hear about the match-up with Kampmann because anything less than the best and he would be disappointed.
“It’s perfect. I wouldn’t want to fight somebody that’s not in the top ten. I’m glad they gave me Kampmann. He’s someone who’s tough, but I think I can beat,” Shields commented. “I’m not overlooking him by any means, but I think it’s a good person to lead me into the UFC.”
Shields and Kampmann do have some past experiences training together. As Shields was getting ready for his fight with Dan Henderson, the pair sparred and worked out briefly, but nothing that would give either fighter an advantage over the other.
As he embarks on his journey as a UFC fighter for the first time, pressure or no pressure, Shields is just as confident as he was heading into the Dan Henderson fight. He believes he’s the superior fighter, and he’s ready to prove that at UFC 121.
He also says that if Martin Kampmann is looking for a fight, he’s going to get one on Saturday night.
“I don’t think he’s fought a wrestler like me, and he’s fought some really good jiu-jitsu guys, but they didn’t have good takedowns,” said Shields. “If he’s talking crap, he’s in for a big surprise. I’m ready, I’m a different fighter than he’s used to.”
Jake Shields will make his UFC debut on Saturday night in the co-main event at UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif.