If Jake Shields is able to successfully defend his middleweight title against Dan Henderson at “Strikeforce: Nashville,” the 31-year-old will emerge as the hottest MMA free agent since … Dan Henderson.
Shields owns a 24-4-1 professional record and is riding a 13-fight winning streak into the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Although he was afforded the opportunity to extend his current Strikeforce deal prior to accepting the April 17th showdown, Shields decided that he wanted to let his game do the talking for him.
“I took the risk. I had the option of course to renegotiate my contract before the fight, and I just felt like it wasn’t really that I wanted to leave Strikeforce. I felt like I wanted to be a free agent and take things from there,” Shields told MMAWeekly.com.
If the San Jose, California-based organization is committed to keeping him on board, they certainly aren’t doing themselves any favors by plastering Hendo’s face all over the “Strikeforce: Nashville” promotional videos, without much – if any – mention of Shields.
“By them doing that it’s kind of pushing me out, but who knows, nothing’s 100 percent at this point still,” Shields said of his co-starring role. “I’m just worried about training really hard, and if I go out there and beat Henderson it’s really going to shake things up and put me in a really good situation.”
Despite the red-headed stepchild-like treatment, Shields claims that it wouldn’t be the deciding factor behind his exit. In fact, a number of topics come into play when considering a move of this magnitude, however he understands all the chatter could be for not if Henderson is able to collect his fourth consecutive win.
“There’s a lot of factors to take in place, but I’m just worried about getting through this fight and take it from there,” said Shields. “I know Henderson’s a tough fight for the last fight on my contract, but I feel like going for it and taking it from there and see what happens.”
UFC president Dana White has played the role of ultimate antagonist in the Jake Shields Sweepstakes as he continues to dump fuel onto Strikeforce’s fire.
“Jake Shields is on the last fight of his contract, so they’re feeding him to Dan Henderson right now because they want to get rid of him because he’s going to go away, or they’re going to have to pay him some big money to stick around,” White said of his rival’s predicament. “‘We’re paying more money to Dan Henderson than we can afford already, so let’s get Jake’s ass kicked by Dan Henderson and get rid of Jake Shields.'”
“[Shields is] going to get paid, because what’s going to happen is we would love to take him from there and I’m sure they’d love to pay him to stick around.”
In addition to his slick Brazilian jiu jitsu game and much-improved standup, Shields can also legitimately challenge for the crown at two different weight classes, driving up his market value even further.
Shields has long professed his desires to compete against the world’s best, and if that is indeed the case, the Octagon houses the planet’s top dogs in the welterweight and middleweight divisions.