by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It’s been a good year for Jake Shields. The former Shooto Champion has raised his stock significantly after going undefeated in MMA competition, capturing the 8-Man Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Tournament in the process.

With Jake’s success he’s become one of the most sought after free agents around and will soon make his way to the big time of MMA. But before that he’s got a dream match-up at the coming Professional Submission League’s “X-Mission” show on Friday in Los Angeles against current Abu Dhabi Champion Marcello Garcia.

During final preparations for his submission match with Garcia, Shields spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss X-Mission, his MMA career, and his thoughts on the upcoming 170lb UFC Championship match between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre.

MMAWeekly: The last time fans got to see you Jake was at the Malice at the Palace show in San Francisco where you dominated MMA veteran Steve Berger in September. What have you been up to since then?

Jake Shields: Just training…I took a week or two off, headed to Thailand for a week to get in a little relaxation and partying then went back to training. I’ve been trying to do a lot of boxing to try to round my boxing out because I’m already a top grappler.

The last couple weeks I went back to grappling just getting ready for that match with Marcello Garcia, I’m excited about that. He’s won Abu Dhabi two times in a row and he’s definitely one of the best two or three pound-for-pound submission guys in the world.

MMAWeekly: You had to go to Thailand so people wouldn’t know what kind of crazy stuff you like to do when you’re cutting loose huh?

Jake Shields: Pretty much yeah [laughs]…that’s so people can’t bust me, I’m out of the country [laughs].

MMAWeekly: This match with Garcia is a dream come true for many fans of the sport of submission grappling. For MMA fans not familiar with this type of match, tell us about it.

Jake Shields: It’s just a full grappling match. You’re just trying to submit the guy, no punches are thrown. Basically you start at your base, try to take him down and go for submissions. The ground work is a lot more technical than you’d see in a straight MMA fight because you don’t have to worry about the punches.

MMAWeekly: Even without strikes it can be very entertaining right?

Jake Shields: I think so, especially when you get two really good guys. It’s just something you have to watch to see if you find it exciting. If you don’t know what’s going on then it won’t be as exciting as MMA, but if you once you know what’s going on – especially with two technical guys – it can be very exciting. I enjoy both [MMA and submission grappling] personally.

MMAWeekly: You don’t mess around; you went right for one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world. What did you think when they told you that you’d be facing Marcello?

Jake Shields: Yeah I’m excited about that, he’s considered the best right now. I’d actually been asking for it. They asked if I wanted to do this match, I wasn’t sure but I told them if they got Garcia I’d do it and they called back and said they had Garcia so it worked out.

For me my main focus right now is MMA, so I still love jiu-jitsu but there’s just not the money and exposure and stuff in it, so I really only wanted to do it if I got to go up against the best guys. They got me the best guy so I figured I’d step in there and do it.

MMAWeekly: Headlining that show will be Randy Couture VS “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza. What are your thoughts on this match?

Jake Shields: That’s going to be a really interesting match. It’s a tough one to call, in MMA I’d pick Couture, but in grappling I’d give the edge to Jacare, he is phenomenal at submission grappling. He [Jacare] is giving up some weight, I think he walks around about 190 and Couture about 220, so there’s a big weight difference, but I think he’s got a good chance of submitting Couture. I don’t see Couture submitting [Jacare], the only way I see him winning is off of takedowns.

MMAWeekly: Okay let’s talk about your MMA career now. Give us the latest update on what you’ve got going on there because we’ve been hearing lots of rumors about where you’re headed.

Jake Shields: I’m talking for a few different shows for January, I’ve got some good offers on the table so I’m just trying to figure out who I’m going with. It definitely looks like I’ll be fighting in January sometime.

There’s probably been a lot of rumors because I’ve had a lot offers on the table. I’ve just been waiting, relaxing, and sorting things out. I’m still not exactly sure what, but it’s looking like soon I’ll be able to tell you what I’m doing. Probably around the time of the Marcello Garcia match I’ll have something signed and announced. We’re just finishing up a couple things right now.

MMAWeekly: You’ve been working hard in the trenches for a few years now. It must feel good to finally have the opportunity to pick and chose what you do.

Jake Shields: Yeah, working hard, going through the exposure, the money…it’s still tough choices, but at least now I have the choices to deal with. It’s nice because I’ve been training hard, trying to get people to try to recognize me and finally I’m in the Top 10 now, so I just want to keep moving on up. I’d like to hopefully fight [Matt] Hughes, that’s the guy ideally I’d like to fight.

MMAWeekly: Along with working on your game, you’re also the trainer/training partner for PRIDE standout Gilbert Melendez. How frustrating was it to put all the work for his upcoming fight and have him miss it due to injury?

Jake Shields: It’s really frustrating. I was strongly encouraging him to pull out, which I’d never done before, I’d never pull anyone out unless they weren’t ready and I don’t think I’ve ever pulled out of a fight or Gil’s ever pulled out of a fight before. His elbow was too messed up and things kept going wrong in training and towards the end we finally decided to pull him out.

It was frustrating to do because he really wanted to fight, but luckily he’s healing up pretty good, getting back into training and will hopefully be ready to fight soon. That’s the good news out of it.

MMAWeekly: It’s good though that along with you, he’s finally getting his just rewards for everything you two have worked so hard for at the San Francisco Fairtex gym.

Jake Shields: We train hard and we’re starting to get the recognition, but we have to keep training harder because everybody keeps getting better. So we’re just trying to push ahead and find new ways to get better so we can get to the top. Gilbert and I both want to be Number 1.

MMAWeekly: This year was a good year for both of you, how do you feel about it for you personally?

Jake Shields: It definitely was a good for me, I went undefeated, won the Rumble on the Rock [175lb] Tournament, won one more fight, but 2007 will be better. I’ve been training hard this year and am looking for big things, getting big offers, and so it’s going to be a good year [next year].

MMAWeekly: Before you head out, being a Top 10 guy we have to get your thoughts on Saturday’s UFC Welterweight Championship fight between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre. Who do you see coming out victorious in that one?

Jake Shields: I think it’s a great fight. They’re the two top guys at my weight right now so it’s going to be hard to call. But if I have to pick someone I’d pick Hughes. I think Hughes is so experienced, so mentally tough and he’s going to be ready for five rounds. It’s going to be a war but I think Hughes is going to pull it out in the end.

MMAWeekly: Thanks for taking the time Jake; we always enjoy having you on the site. Is there anything you’d like to say in conclusion?

Jake Shields: Thanks to the fans for all their support and thanks to Tapout and Fairtex. It’s going to be a great match and the whole card looks really good, so come out and see the show. I’m really excited; it’s great to have a pro league for submission grappling.