Camp with the Champ: Jake Shields

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— Jake Shields is an American winner.

The American Jiu-Jitsu creator—a blend of San Francisco State University wrestling and his Cesar Gracie black belt—has the longest active winning streak of any high level American fighter. The run includes 13 wins over six champions across two weight classes (170, 185-pounds) and a one-night tournament victory in five years. He’s 22-4-1 overall.

Prior to capturing the vacant Strikeforce Middlewieght Championship against Jason “Mayhem” Miller last November, he finished his last eight opponents. A Shooto, Rumble on the Rock and EliteXC titleholder, Shields defeated four champions in his last four outings. Despite all his accolades, he enters the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tenn. this Saturday night on CBS an underdog against former PRIDE 183-pound and 205-pound champion Dan Henderson.

He last tasted defeat via unanimous decision to Akira Kuichi in Shooto on New Year’s Eve 2004. He’s only been stopped once in his career, back in 2000 when he wasn’t serious about being a mixed martial artist.

“I think it’s a big advantage. I’m not gonna quit out there. I can take a punch. I’m not gonna submit. I’m a hard guy to put away,” says the 31-year-old.

Chuck Liddell broke Shields into the sport and prepared Shields early on in camp for Henderson’s power right hand and devastating left hook—punches that helped Liddell become the most decorated light heavyweight in history.
But Shields understands his strengths are submissions and gains some extra confidence knowing submissions are the only way to stop the notoriously durable Team Quest fighter.

“He’s on a winning streak. He’s at the peak of his fame. He’s at the peak of his career,” notes Shields of Henderson, who knocked out Michael Bisping at UFC 100 in July in his last outing. “I think now is the perfect time to fight him.”

It’s been 12 years since Shields first saw the Greco-Roman Olympian fight for the first time at UFC 17. Shields was just a wrestler then, but admired a fellow wrestler demonstrating grit en route to victory. The San Franciscan is undaunted by the granite-chinned, power hitting legend of Dan Henderson. And while he can always go back to his natural weight of 170-pounds if he loses to “Hendo,” he’s the 185-pound champion and intends to remain the divisional king.

“It’s kind of the same feeling I had going in and fighting Hayato Sakurai. Sherdog or one of those sites had people polled, 0% of people picked me to win, but I went out there and won,” explains Shields. “He was considered top of the world at the time. I beat him. Henderson’s the same thing to me.

“I think every fight—my five or six fights have been bigger fights. I’m hoping to keep that upward swing,” he says. “Every fight seems to get bigger and this is definitely the biggest fight of my life.”

Respect has been a slow process for Shields because he didn’t have the credibility of a PRIDE ring or a UFC Octagon. It’s rare for the UFC’s top stars like Henderson to exit the organization—especially after a victory—so Shields expects to leave no doubts he’s pound-for-pound one of the best in the world like Sports Illustrated voted him in his nationally televised clash against Henderson.

“Ten years, I’ve beaten lots of big time fighters. Most of the wins were in the highest profile places, I really don’t get credit for them,” says Shields. “Its nice places are finally starting to recognize. I think beating Dan Henderson will put me over the top everywhere.”

Go here to watch our FIGHT! Life video series featuring Jake Shields!

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