The last couple of times Jake Shields headlined a UFC card, he lost. And Demian Maia will need to work hard to ensure that happens again when they meet at UFC Fight Night 29’s main event, on Oct. 9 in Barueri, Brazil.
The UFC officially announced Maia vs. Shields on Tuesday during a media day in Sao Paulo, and the former EliteXC, Shooto and Strikeforce champion Shields told MMAFighting.com he was "really excited" when the opportunity to face a Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard like Maia. Not that he wouldn't have preferred the fight being held closer to home.
"I was really excited," Shields told MMAFighting.com on Tuesday. "Demian Maia is a guy that I have a lot of respect for. He’s on a win streak, closer to a title fight. As far as fighting in Brazil, of course I’d rather fight in the U.S., near home and I wouldn’t have to travel, but someone has to do it."
Shields has traveled to Brazil a couple times in the past, but this is the first time he'll head south to face one of Brazil’s own. He realizes he'll hear his share of boos from the crowd, maybe hear some "death chants," but he’s okay with it.
"It is a factor, something to think about - but I had the opportunity to fight a lot of Japanese in Japan and Canadians in Canada," he said. "I’ve fought outside of my hometown and done well, so it’s not something I’m worried about. Ultimately, only Demian Maia and I will be in the cage. The crowd will not interfere in the fight, so I’ll just block out the crowd."
Always respectful when promoting the fight, Shields doesn’t expect to get the sort of treatment that some Americans might.
"Maia is always very respectful guy, and I have a lot of respect for him," he said. "Of course the fans are going to boo me, but they are not going to hate me like Chael Sonnen."
Shields and Maia are both black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, with 19 combined wins by submission in MMA. Fights are unpredictable, but the Californian - who has his own hybrid brand of American jiu-jitsu - believes they will test their techniques on the ground on October 9.
"You never know exactly what’s going to happen, but I expect this to be a jiu-jitsu fight," he said. "We’re both top jiu-jitsu fighters and will probably try to take the fight to the ground. It’s hard to say who will be better there, we have different styles. I love to fight and find out who the best is. I never really train with the gi, and have a more aggressive style."
Training under Cesar Gracie in California, Shields believes his daily work with his accomplished team will figure pay off come fight night.
"I’m very fortunate to have the best jiu-jitsu camp in the United States," he said. "All these guys - Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Kron Gracie - I’m surrounded by great Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters, so I’m with the right people to beat Maia."