Jake Shields Ponders Return to Middleweight

December 27, 2011

SAN DIEGO – Middleweight remains on the mind of former Strikeforce 185-pound champ Jake Shields.

The now-UFC welterweight readies for a fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144, but prior to accepting the challenge, Shields considered returning to middleweight. The thought of going back up a weight class has always been there for Shields and, according to the Cesar Gracie fighter, the recent return of Nick Diaz to the UFC’s welterweight ranks gives the biggest motivation to move back up.

Fighting teammates isn’t something Shields is interested in. Leaving the weight class to make room for Diaz’s contention makes the most sense, according to the former Strikeforce titleholder.

“I would have no problem fighting there,” Shields told MMAWeekly.com in regards to returning to 185 pounds. “It’s something I’ve thought about before and I was thinking about it (before) this fight, but they offered me this fight (and) I took it. Especially with my teammate, Nick Diaz, challenging for the welterweight title, it’s definitely in the back of my mind going up to 185 (pounds).

Gracie’s camp – which consists of athletes such as Nick and Nate Diaz, Shields, and Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez – has always been a place where teammates voice their opinions about a reluctance to fight each other. It’s just not the same as fighting a guy you don’t know, according to Shields. With Nick Diaz, Shields has more than a sparring partner; he has a cohort that’s been there with him through thick and thin.

The relationship with Diaz means more to Shields than being matched against him on a UFC pay-per-view card.

“Not Diaz,” Shields answered when asked if he’d fight a teammate. “I’d fight sparring partners, but (Nick and I) are different. We trained together for, like, 11 years; so it’s a little different. We’re not just casual sparring partners. There’s a big difference.

“(Nick and I) were white belts together, and traveled all over the world and had fights together. It’s a bit different.”

The last time Shields fought at middleweight was in April 2010, when he defended his Strikeforce title against a heavily favored Dan Henderson. Shields was rocked by a Henderson right hand early in the bout, but recovered and went on to dominate the rest of the fight on the ground.

Following the Henderson win, Shields moved on from Strikeforce and made a successful UFC debut against Martin Kampmann at UFC 121. The fight was Shields’ first at 170 pounds since defending his EliteXC welterweight belt against Paul Daley in 2008.

Shields will face Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC Japan on Feb. 26.

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