To say UFC president Dana White is counting his chickens before they hatch would be an understatement. Then again, now that Strikeforce has granted free agent Jake Shields his outright release, White & Co. really don’t have much to lose considering the champion has run out of options stateside.
After Sherdog.com announced Wednesday that Shields exited the San Jose, CA based promotion in anticlimactic fashion, his Daddy/manager made it clear that Jake would prefer going after Anderson Silva’s middleweight title first – before headhunting for Georges St-Pierre’s welterweight crown.
“I think he should come in at 170 pounds,” UFC president President Dana White told MMAJunkie.com at yesterday’s UFC 116 pre-fight press conference. “Our 185-pound division is nasty. He can [come in as a middleweight] if he wants to. I don’t think he wants to.”
Shields is a former EliteXC welterweight champ, as well as the “reigning” Stirkeforce middleweight title holder. His utter destruction of Dan Henderson in April, parlayed with his 14-fight winning streak and ability to double-dip in divisions are the reasons he is the hottest free agent this side of the NBA.
Despite the successes he’s experienced outside of the Octagon, White wanted to reiterate to his new/potential employee that this was a completely different ball game.
“Why would you want to come into that 185-pound division? I know Anderson (Silva) dominates so much that he makes everybody else look (bad), but you’ve got Nate Marquardt in there. There’s some tough guys in that division, and he’s not a big 185-pounder,” White added.
Although Shields owns an impressive 25-4-1 mark and has showcased an improved overall MMA game in his last several scraps, White believes the Cesar Gracie trained grappler is too small for the behemoths that compete in the UFC’s middleweight class.
“The real 185-pounders are cutting down from 215 to make that weight, so I would say 170,” said White. “But on the flip side, you’ve got to give the guy his credit. He beat Henderson. Henderson fought at 185 and 205. So if he told me he wanted to go to 185, I wouldn’t argue with him.”
Team Shields and the UFC have been negotiating numbers all week and White speculated that a deal should be in place rather “quickly.”