By CagePotato contributor Brian J. D’Souza
The April 30th UFC event at the Rogers Centre in Toronto will play host to pound-for-pound king Georges St. Pierre, a French-Canadian superstar who helps move everything from action figures to videogames for his UFC bosses. Jake Shields hasn’t quite reached that level of mainstream acclaim, but when he faces off with GSP at UFC 129, he’ll be carrying a 15-fight win streak thanks to an arsenal of tools that could be the wildcard against an experienced champion who has yet to show any stylistic weaknesses nor signs of decline.
Catching up with Shields during a tour of Ontario, the friendly Cesar Gracie team member seems to effortlessly surmount a packed schedule of seminars, media appearances, interviews, photo shoots and autograph requests with a smile and his positive attitude. A former welterweight champion in Elite XC and middleweight champion in Strikeforce, Jake wants to add the most important belt to his collection — the UFC 170-pound title.
Shields won’t play into a war of words with St. Pierre in the grand tradition of B.J. Penn, Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck. “He’s a great guy. I don’t know him that well, so I’d have no reason to suspect him as being fake,” Shields says.
As he once told FIGHT! magazine’s Danny Acosta, “When you’ve been in fights, fighting 10 people at once, people with knives and bats and guns and whatnot, it definitely takes fear away in the cage,” however, on this day, Shields shied away from elaborating too much on his tumultuous youth.
“People would fight a lot in areas that I grew up in. People would pull knives, guns, bats — it was stupid, I was young back then. But it was just how it was when I was growing up.”
Many fans are underestimating or overlooking Shields, calling him an underdog. His best chance to win is to secure the takedown first, and prevent St. Pierre from scrambling back up to secure his own takedowns; being out-landed on the feet is another danger, as Kos could tell you. While April 30th will be the biggest night of Jake Shield’s career, if he does win, the UFC will have the same problem that arose with the passing of the 155-pound torch from established fan-favorite B.J. Penn to a less marketable champion in Frankie Edgar.
Shields could also be the fresh breath of air that the UFC needs. A win over Georges would lead to interesting match-ups at welterweight instead of predictable rematches between GSP and once or twice-beaten foes.
With 42,000 tickets available, Toronto’s Rogers Centre could be the launching ground for the next stage of Zuffa’s global expansion. UFC 129 is projected to break official attendance records, and GSP is one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in the UFC stable.
Jake Shields knows that he wants to use American jiu-jitsu to put GSP to sleep — hopefully, GSP counters without utilizing a Greg Jackson strategy that puts the audience to sleep.