(Shields was pleasantly surprised to find his locker at the UFC training centre stuffed with the "respect" Strikeforce failed to show him.)
When Jake Shields announced that he would be testing the free agent waters when his Strikeforce contract ended this summer, every MMA fan and journalist collectively thought, "He’s going to the UFC." Strikeforce must have been thinking the same thing, considering they let Shields, who is their middleweight champ, go without a fight by releasing him without tendering a final offer before he began the open negotiation period with other promotions.
Even if a company like the UFC made an offer, Strikeforce, by rights could have matched any offer on the table, but by releasing him from his contract, the only thing they did was possibly prevent a bidding war resulting salary increase for Shields.
He told BJPenn.com that the release was totally unexpected.
“It came as kind of a surprise. I hadn’t really been talking to Strikeforce and pretty much everyone knows that I want to go to the UFC. We got our negotiations going with the UFC and they (Strikeforce) dropped me without any warning and it came out of nowhere. It is what it is and I’m moving ahead with the UFC contract and hopefully that will be worked out soon.”
Although unexpected, Shields says it likely wouldn’t have mattered as the level of competition he could face under the Strikeforce banner at both middleweight and his usual home at welterweight. The company drove the final wedge between themselves and Shields at the Fedor vs. Werdum show June 25. A lack of respect he felt he had been shown was amplified that night and it severed the few remaining strands of chance that he might stick around.
“They certainly didn’t treat me like a champion. I went up there thinking that I was the champion, didn’t have any tickets and wasn’t able to get in. Finally one of the Showtime guys was able to get me in and then Scott Coker had some tickets for me but they were way way way up in the stands where I barely could see and I was really surprised because I didn’t realize that is how Strikeforce treats their champs. At that point I didn’t realize that we weren’t negotiating anymore and first off they didn’t give me any tickets and when they did they were in the nosebleed seats. Finally one of the Showtime guys was able to get me down in the front row. They obviously wanted Henderson to win from the beginning and they were a little upset about that but I guess they just got mad at me for winning.”
As far as his negotiations with the UFC are concerned, Shields says the deal is all but done and should soon be signed, sealed and delivered after both sides finish doing the numbers dance. Shields says that when the contract becomes official, he doesn’t want a tune-up fight, he wants to jump into the mix of contenders.
“I’m just talking to UFC at this point and I’m sure we will work something out. I’ve really wanted to fight for the UFC for about a year or so and it just wouldn’t make sense for me to fight anywhere else. Especially if Dana White and the Fertitta brothers and everyone at the UFC is being really fair and it just wouldn’t make sense for me to go elsewhere…It’s hard to put exact times on it because it’s one of those things. The numbers have to go back and forth, my dad’s lawyers will look over them and the UFC’s lawyers will look over them but I don’t think it’ll take that long. I think this point we are done with Strikeforce and I think we are pretty close to coming to an agreement. Because at this point I want to fight in the UFC and they say that they want me and there is no reason why we can’t get this done soon. I’m training my ass right now and I’m ready to go. I just want to get this contract done and I hope that they have a fight ready for me. Like I said I’ve always been a person who will step anytime…whenever and I’m just hoping that they will give me a big name right off the bat. I wanna go out there and show that I belong with the top dogs.”
Although he isn’t sure whether he’ll remain at 185 or move back down to 170, Shields says he hasn’t decided, but revealed that he will be pushing his teammates Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz to jump ship with him to the Octagon when their current deals with the "number two promotion" expire. As he did in Strikeforce, he may need to stay at or move up to middleweight if and when that happens to avoid being matched up with Diaz.
“I don’t want to knock Strikeforce because that’s not my style even though they did treat me like shit which was unnecessary because I never talked bad about them. Honestly I would love to see Gilbert and Nick in the UFC. Even though Strikeforce is a good show, everyone knows it’s the number two show. They have a handful of good fighters but all the top competition is in the UFC and I feel that Nick and Gilbert are good enough to fight at the highest level. I would love to see them come over and once I get signed I’ll have to put that in Dana’s ear. I think they are two of the best of the best. I know the UFC likes having the best of the best and it just makes sense for them to be there."
A big part of the disrespect Shields says not only he was shown, but also was heaped on guys like Melendez, Diaz and King Mo, was the fact that the promotion seemed to market itself on its more seasoned, bigger name fighters.
"I feel like they (Strikeforce) want to go after the places that have already been built like Shamrock or Cung Le. They don’t seem really interested in building top young fighters in their prime. They had a great batch of young fighters like me, Nick, Gil and King Mo but they weren’t interested in great young fighters and instead all the push went to “has beens” like Shamrock and Cung Le. It seemed like they wanted to push people who were no where near their prime.”