("So long, losers!" / Photo courtesy of sports.sho.com)
By CagePotato Comment-Section "Godfatehre" [sic] Old, Bald and Irish
I was recently greeted with the news that Strikeforce would not only be releasing current Middleweight Champion Jake Shields (25-4-1), but they are not even going to bother negotiating with him or making counter-offers.
This latest thumb-in-the-eye just adds to the disrespectful treatment that Shields has received at the hands of Coker and Company. Since when does a committed professional fighter who is a former Rumble on the Rock champ, SHOOTO Middleweight champ, EliteXC’s first and only welterweight champ, who just happens to be on a 14 fight win streak, become an unwanted commodity?
We all saw the CBS ads for Strikeforce: Nashville. You know, the flashy ones showing DAN HENDERSON punching! DAN HENDERSON kicking a bag! DAN HENDERSON standing there, making no expression, yet at the same time, being a living legend! And he’s gonna fight outside of the UFC! And it’s for the CHAMPIONSHIP BELT! Yeah, bitch…that’s right! And he’s gonna fight some guy! Some "Shileds" fella….but we don’t have time to talk about him because we just spent all the time in this commercial talking about how wickedly awesome DAN HENDERSON is!
If you were Jake Shields, how could you not feel insulted?
Stikeforce set up big, tough fights for Jake right off the bat. Shields has always maintained that he wanted to fight the best and he’s taken on all comers — Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, and especially Henderson. He’s always stepped up and put on a good show. He’s been extremely reliable and has managed to stay healthy, except for a few months when he was with EliteXC recovering from an injury that prevented him from crushing Drew Fickett into a pile of fermented goo.
So where’s the love?
We all knew that Shields was heading for the UFC. It didn’t take a lip-reader watching Dana White mouth "HE’S MINE!" at a WEC event to figure it out. Jake was ready for the UFC 18 months ago, and White has been openly eager to get him. So why was Strikeforce so ready to let him go? What does the UFC see that Strikeforce doesn’t?
My guess could be summed up in one word: marketability.
One thing that the now defunct EliteXC did well was to market their fighters. Whether you love him or hate him, face it — you know the Kimbo Slice story.
The scrappy high school star middle linebacker who had professional football aspirations until Hurricane Andrew laid waste to his home and forced him to live out of a truck. Bouncing at nightclubs and bodyguarding for the porn industry paid the bills. But Slice became an internet sensation crushing cans in unsanctioned street fights that got zillions of hits on YouTube. The next thing you know, he taps out Ray Mercer, pummels Tank Abbot and makes Bo Cantrell tap out from strikes before he hits the canvas. Going into his fight against James Thompson, which headlined the first-ever MMA event on prime-time national television, he was arguably one of the worlds most well-known mixed martial artists.
Regardless of the controversial outcome of his fight against "Gong-and-Dash" and the career altering defeat at the hands of Seth "I’m NOT gay!" Petruzelli, Slice is still one of the most well-known fighters in MMA.
….and you can chalk that up to marketing a compelling story. In the world of MMA, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Or in Kimbo’s case, the bread.
So with that bit of history to glean from, let’s take a look at Jake Shields. So what’s Jake’s story? What have we learned about this young fighter’s history? Well, according to Strikeforce, Jake is from Cali, he can wrestle and he knows that "Iceman" guy on TUF.
….oh….wait….that last part I learned from Spike TV.
And that’s the point. What is Shields’s back story? I’m not looking for TMZ tidbits, but seriously! Where does this guy come from? Can Strikeforce tell me anything?
Apparently not. Either through laziness or ignorance, Strikeforce has decided to let the fruit rot on the vine.
You may ask "So what’s so great about Shields?" A fair question. Again, I answer it with one word: marketability. And here’s his story:
Jake’s a committed fighter who’s "easy on the eyes" (a rarity for MMA fighters), a single Dad on a winning streak doing everything he can to put a meal on the table for his adorable and loving daughter. That’s just one freakin’ line. Think the UFC can do better with a guy like this?
Ever heard Houston Alexander‘s story? Suffering the horrific personal loss of his wife, leaving him a single Dad with multiple children, every time Houston steps into the ring, it’s for his family!
Where did I hear this? Why, from the UFC, of course.
First off, God bless Houston and his family. I use him as an example, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is a tremendous family man and father. But let’s face it; the UFC certainly didn’t shy away from Alexander’s compelling storyline. Creepy or not, it connects fans to fighters on a human level.
And now with Shields under their wing? Fuhgedaboutit. The UFC know how to market fighters. Shields looks good, he can fight, he’s a proven winner. Mark my words: He’s the next Rich Franklin.
Oh yeah! Rich Franklin! You know his story, right? You know what his former occupation was? How he got his nickname? Of course you do. It’s called "marketing"!
Strikeforce certainly had a golden opportunity with Jake. But instead of building from within, they saw their fortunes on the outside. While I was happy to see the acquisitions of Hendo and Fedor to the Strikforce roster, I’m disappointed to see these victories at the cost of one of their most valiant foot soldiers. Coker is foolish to think that Melendez, Diaz, Le, Smith, Lawler and Rogers are not taking note of how their promotion is treating one of their champions — and how the UFC will treat their new treasure.