(I’m not your mommy and no, I won’t read you a bedtime story)
Whenever most fighters are asked whether or not they were hurt by a heavy punch, solid kick or vicious knee, they usually lie through their teeth and deny the shot had any effect whatsoever.
Jake Shields, isn’t like most fighters.
When asked in a recent interview with FiveKnuckles.com, if the pair of right hands that dropped him twice in the first round of his title defense against Dan Henderson at Strikeforce: Nashville in April had any effect, Shields was quick to admit he was in trouble and survived on pure instinct alone as he wasn’t sure about much more than the fact that he knew he was in a fight.
"I’m not gonna say it’s positive [that] I got dropped, but I guess on one hand it’s good. People like to see heart and people want to know if you can get dropped and come through it. I guess it’s good for me to know that I can do that too. I’ve never been dropped in a fight, or been pushed like that, so now I know I can take a shot like that, recover and keep fighting.
The first part of that first round is just a big blur to me. I was rocked and he rocked me again, and then about halfway through the first round I started slowly getting my wits together, but I was a little disoriented that first round. Not quite sure exactly what was going on. I knew I was in a fight and I knew he was hitting me. I had no idea I got dropped. I just knew he was coming at me hard, and I didn’t want to lose. Especially in that first round, it would have been embarrassing. A lot of people were picking him to knock me out in that first round, and to have that happen would have just been completely embarrassing. So all I could do was just keep fighting, keep fighting… and I remember thinking that if I just kept moving the ref probably wouldn’t stop it. So I went for a foot lock. I just made sure to keep really active so they wouldn’t stop it."
Shields credits his corner for helping him keep his composure in spite of him nearly being finished in that opening frame.
"I went back to the corner and I wasn’t sure what happened. I think I said something like, "What happened? Did I slip?" And everyone in my corner was like, "Yeah, you slipped man." They didn’t want to break my confidence, so I thought I slipped (laughs). So they were kinda trying to keep my confidence together, and just told me the basic stuff, like keep my hands up, and stay lower. Other than that, I was just trying to pull my head together. I knew I had lost that first round in a big way, and I was telling myself, ‘You gotta get it together. Pull it together right now.’ So I went out there and took over."
Fighters always talk about the importance of having a good corner, and those who don’t compete don’t always see the psychological aspect a coach needs to focus on to keep his fighter positive throughout their fights.
If you recall, in between the second and third round of Sam Stout‘s
UFN 10 bout with Spencer Fisher, Stout’s trainer Shawn Tompkins used a similar approach to motivate his fighter who was down on the scorecards, telling him, "Don’t get caught in a war. Lead hook, cross; don’t get emotional with him. We are winning every exchange."
Tompkins advice was scrutinized by UFC commentator Joe Rogan who at the time remarked, “That’s interesting. Sean Tompkins says ‘we’re winning every exchange.’ I completely disagree. Obviously he is probably trying to pump [him] up and give him confidence but it might not be a good thing to say. I’m sure he is just trying to pump up Sam Stout but he needs to put some urgency into his game.”
Near the half-way point of the final round Rogan expounded on what was in his opinion, an error in judgment by Tompkins:
"He should have already have been [fighting with a sense of urgency]. At the beginning of this round he should have been there. That’s the only thing I disagree with about Tompkins coaching him in his corner.”
Tompkins later explained his rationale in an interview with Mauro Ranallo for Fight Network Radio:
“No, absolutely it’s a motivational thing that as a trainer you doing things like that where your fighter is getting power shots to his chin. You don’t want him to fall back into a single punch or single kick series where he is going to get knocked out. What I wanted him to do was to continue with confidence that he was winning the exchanges therefore, he would continue to throw punches in four or six hand combos and at any time you throw hands in fours or sixes you’ve got a chance at knocking the person out. I mean contrary to the coaching expertise of Joe Rogan, who I think is one of the biggest douchebags in the sport, I’m very confident in what I do and how I do it. I don’t think I really have to prove it to anybody. That is completely the reason why I did it.”
Note: Rogan and Tompkins have discussed their differing opinions and have since hugged it out.