411 MMA Interviews: Jake Shields
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 11.27.2009
The new Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, Jake Shields, speaks with 411mania for an exclusive interview. Shields speaks on his win over Jason "Mayhem" Miller, his struggle to become successful in the toughest sport in the world, Cecil Peoples and MMA Judging, his future in MMA and more.Check out the full interview to see what Shields has to say!
Jake Shields is the new Middleweight Champion of the Strikeforce MMA promotion. Shields went a full five rounds in his championship bout with Jason "Mayhem" Miller on the CBS Saturday Night Fights event earlier this month to capture the vacant title. Now having won titles at both welterweight and middleweight, Shields continues his training at the Cesar Gracie BJJ Academy and looks forward to fighting again hopefully early next year. Shields was gracious enough to grant 411mania for an exclusive interview to talk about what's going on with his life and career following his milestone title victory:
Jeffrey Harris: You've joined an elite class of fighters to win two titles in two separate weight classes. It's a short list that includes people like Randy Couture, BJ Penn, and Dan Henderson. How are you feeling right now and how are you taking being a champion again all in?
Jake Shields: It's a great feeling to have success in two weights, so it's great. It's not easy to go up, and not a lot of guys have been successful at both weights. It's a great feeling. I took a week off, but now I'm back in the gym always trying to get better, you know, I have a lot to do in this sport. I'm still young and got at least 5 more years in my prime so trying to improve my skills.
JH: After the fight with Mayhem, how are you feeling? Did you get banged up at all or did you get out of it fairly injury free?
JS: No, I was fine. I got a head butt, a small cut in my head, you know my body's a little sore a couple weeks but no injuries. I haven't had any big injuries in any of my fights, so . . .
JH: Have you mended fences with Mayhem yet at all, or is he still being butt hurt on his Twitter?
JS: He's going to be a little butt hurt, but I have no hard feelings to him so I'm sure in the future we'll most likely be friends again and if not, whatever.
JH: Does this mean we might not ever see you again on Bully Beatdown?
JS: It's definitely possible. I was on his show a little bit anyways so I'm not fully ruling it out. I possibly would be let back, but I feel most likely not . . . the producers actually already invited me back so they sent me an e-mail after the fight letting me know they really wanted me back and hopefully things will smooth out with me. They said regardless of Mayhem's issues with me, he doesn't make the decisions. It's possible I may go on there again. I'm not sure, but I have been invited back for season 3 if I choose to do it.
JH: Now having won the belt at 185, how much do you want to give a run at the belt at 170 in the near future?
JS: Yeah, I wouldn't mind, but I haven't made any final decisions yet. It depends on a lot of things -- like there's several factors. One, I like Strikeforce so where ever they want me, that makes a big decision on if they prefer me one way or the other that makes a big sway because they write my checks so I want to keep them happy. They treat me good so I want to do what they want in return, and also there's the Nick Diaz factor which most people know that me and Nick are teammates and have no interest in fighting each other and we both kind of hop around in weight to weight so that makes a big difference where he wants to go. And it also depends on what opponents come looking for fights that interest me. So I'm looking at what ever the fight interests me. Personally, I think 170 is my best weight, but I'm just looking for a challenge.
JH: After some of the things you both have said, I would love to see you fight Frank Shamrock.
JS: *Laughs* Yeah, I would too. Frank Shamrock is one of the few guys I don't like in the sports. There's only 2 or 3 guys I really don't like and Shamrock is one of them. I would love to give him a smashing.
JH: You also got involved with director/producer, James Feng, and the new documentary film about MMA, Fight Life. How did get involved with this project?
JS: Well he [James Feng] came to me probably a little over a year ago and said me he was interested in a documentary. Of course, I'm a little skeptical, but then I looked him up and seen he'd done some prior film work and it looked like he was quite a legit filmmaker so I started working with him back in -- it's mostly his project. I helped him a little bit. I gave him some guidance and I'm a part of the film but honestly he definitely did most of the work and the film is not complete yet but it looks like a documentary, it's a phenomenal job and I think it's going to be a great documentary. It's going to show people -- you know there's never been a documentary like this made of fighting yet. There's been some that aren't bad, but I think he has a different spin on it and want you go to check it out at FightLife.tv. I think it's going to be a great film.
JH: I think it looks like it will be a great view of the lifestyle of most MMA fighters since the look most fans have at MMA fighters is The Ultimate Fighter. So it's good to see something that's different.
JS: Yeah. It's a completely different look of the real hard work people put in, of the years of hardwork. It doesn't just come overnight for a lot of these people. A lot of people don't necessarily make it out there. It's not a lot of money. It's a tough job; you kind of show that end of it. But it's also showing the positive end too, you just kind of show the realities of it.
JH: And you let James and his crew into your training camps and look at some of your other fighters?
JS: Yeah, he followed my training camps in and out for close to a year you know he did quite a bit of following and I helped him make connections with other fights and people and definitely helped a lot, but ultimately I don't want to take too much credit. He was the one that did by far put the project together and everything. I helped him make connections and let him follow me and everything and helped as much as I possibly could, try to get this off the ground because what I think he's doing is really important. He followed other fighters, I think he focuses on 3 or 4 fighters but he got some really good footage and I have a feeling having seen the trailer, he really knows what he's doing. It's going to be quite a film.
JH: I can only assume now you are making some decent money from the sport to live more comfortably and pay the bills and all. And clearly from this documentary, this is a high risk low reward type of sport. So when you got started as a fighter, how do you deal with that, and stick with it?
JS: It was tough. Especially I had a daughter, I had everything. I was poor for years, but I had so much passion and love for the sport that I just couldn't stop. Everyone was telling me to -- 99% of the people that I knew told me to quit fighting and work and pursue a real job and make some money and quit living the dream, but I just had too much passion for the sport. I just couldn't stop. I kept pushing and pushing, and luckily now it's all really paying off. The last 3 years I've been living pretty comfortably and every year it gets better. And right now, it pays really good. Certainly not rich yet, but lots of good things in the works.
JH: For you, MMA popularity has blown up because of The Ultimate Fighter and the revamping of the UFC. And Strikeforce was on Showtime and now it's on CBS. But for you, your passion and fandom for the sport happened much earlier. Where did your passion for MMA and martial arts come from? Why did you want to get started in this business?
JS: I was always into wrestling in high school and college and I watched all the old UFC's and I loved the competition aspect, the martial arts aspect. I loved the training. I like testing myself and pushing myself you know. Exactly why, I can't pinpoint one reason, but it's just I love so much about this sport: the friends you make; the camaraderie; actually getting out there and fighting; the training; it's a test to see if you can do it, you know? Not many people can get to go out there, lock themselves in a cage, and fight another person especially a top-trained athlete. It's quite a great feeling.
JH: What do you tell guys who are struggling or getting in? What advice do you have for the newer fighters?
JS: You know it comes down to it's a good idea if you can find a good team. That's huge right there. And it's not an overnight thing. A lot of guys think it's easy to do. You got to sit back and think, is this what you really want to do? And if it is, you can't sit there and talk about it, you got to do the training. You can't cheat it. There's no secret, you know? People want the secret of success, but its hard work. People might get the short cuts like jumping on a reality show; they usually win a couple fights, get beat up, and drop back out of there. If you want to be good, you got to put in the work and just keep working and working and working. It doesn't come overnight. It's years of hard work.
JH: Do you have a range of time of when you think you might fight again next year?
JS: You know I don't, but as far as I'm concerned I would like to fight soon. I love fighting and I don't like staying sidelined too long. So I haven't talked to Strikeforce about that yet, but I'm hoping -- I would love to fight like February, by February or March.
JH: What is the balance of training and avoiding those injuries while training, or working through an injury before a big fight?
JS: I think part of it is you have to learn to deal with your injuries because you're going to get hurt no matter what and you got to learn to train through them unless it's too severe and another huge aspect is finding the right training partners. You know you have to be careful who you train with. Some people are going to go out there and try to hurt you and you just can't train with those people. You got to realize who hurts a lot of people and who doesn't and finding good training partners. I'm lucky to have a great team with Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, and Josh McDonald. I have great sparring partners where we spar really hard but we know how to hold back and not hurt each other. That's a hard balance to find, but luckily most of the top pros know how to do that.
JH: What's the worst injury you've ever had?
JS: My worst injury was in training. I threw my back out. I grabbed a sledgehammer and started throwing it without warming up first and my back flipped out. I was in a conditioning workout and I kept trying, I went for about 5 or 10 minutes to override the pain and finally I stopped. And I cramped up. I was bedridden for about 2 weeks. I had to pull out of a fight . . . And my back was messed up for like a good 3 months. I had a couple doctors tell me to find a new career, I'd never fight again, that I was done. But I was really fortunate. I found a doctor, Dr. Manny . . . I don't even know his last name, but he's a motion chiropractor . . . I found him . . . he was able to -- after one week with him I was 100% again and it was a great feeling. But, I mean I knew I was going to fight again of course, but just some really negative doctors out there that people need to learn not to listen to.
JH: Lately there's been a lot been a lot of controversy about MMA judging and some decisions and the way judges judge a fight. Are you worried at all when you have a controversial judge such as Cecil Peoples who said leg kicks are not effective striking and don't finish fights? What do you think of that?
JS: Well, I've seen people get dropped with leg kicks. I think that's a joke. Obviously, other strikes might be more effective than leg strikes, but if you know how to use them they can be extremely effective and I think it's that they aren't trying to revamp the judging and the refs. I mean there are great judges out there like Big John [McCarthy] and Josh Rosenthal. There's lots of good refs out there, but some of these guys are jokes. In California, one of my teammates, one of Nick Diaz's training partners whose great at submission defense, a guy was trying to guillotine him. He [the opponent] didn't have the guillotine in. The ref jumped in and stopped the fight due to a guillotine attempt and that's one of the most absurd things I've ever seen. And he clearly didn't have the guillotine in. My guy lost or Nick Diaz's guy lost the fight due to a guy jumping guard in a guillotine half (?). Stuff like that, it's like wow.
JH: I never complained much about MMA judging or decisions until I heard Cecil Peoples say what he did about leg kicks. I've seen Brandon Vera finish a fight with leg kicks--
JS: They're clearly effective especially if you have a close fight you have to look at little factors.
JH: Forrest Griffin arguably became light heavyweight champion because of the damage he did to Rampage with leg kicks--
JS: But Cecil Peoples, the known laughing stock to the sport, yet he continually gets used over and over. Its things like that it's like -- everyone knows the guy doesn't know what he's doing, but he's like everywhere. It just doesn't make any sense . . . The guy should resign. How can this guy not resign? It's just crazy.
JH: Anyone in mind that you would like to maybe fight next at middleweight?
JS: You know, Dan Henderson, I would love to fight. I don't know if that's a reality or not, but I've heard rumors of him talking to Strikeforce. If there's any truth to that, I would love that fight. Other than that, it's hard to say. They've got some good guys in there. Shamrock's been mentioned. I would love to fight Cung Le, but unfortunately I don't think he wants to fight me. But I'd be willing to fight who ever.
JH: Perhaps Tim Kennedy?
JS: Yeah, yeah. That's another good up and comer. I'm kind of friends with Kennedy, but it's part of the sport, so I'll fight him.
JH: Any sponsors or people you would like to thank?
JS: Yeah definitely, my whole team of course, Cesar Gracie Team, I already a mentioned a bunch of names I trained with earlier. My sponsors, they help pay the bills: Championship Nutrition; Tapout; and then Rockstar Energy Drink; Serious Pimp Sunglasses; and EA Sports.
JH: Thank you so much for taking the time to speaking with us. Congrats on winning the title and looking forward to seeing you fight again soon.
JS: Thanks a lot.
Thank you to Jake Shields for taking the time out of his training schedule to speak with us. Besides the upcoming documentary, Fight Life, Jake Shields will also be making his video game debut in EA's MMA videogame. Remember to get all your latest MMA news and coverage by saving 411mania.com/mma as your homepage or bookmarking to your favorite places.