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Jake Shields to Fight Robbie Lawler Next, Not Joe Riggs

When Strikeforce acquired the assets of EliteXC, the best fighter who came aboard was EliteXC welterweight champ Jake Shields. But the question facing Strikeforce was whether it would be able to find Shields any high-quality opponents, considering that other than Shields, all the top welterweights in the world are in the UFC.

At first, Strikeforce said the best it could do was to match Shields against Joe Riggs. But now the promotion has had a change of plans.

Ariel Helwani of Versus.com has the scoop:
A planned welterweight bout between Jake Shields and Joe Riggs at next month's Strikeforce event has been cancelled.

Sources informed Versus.com of the news earlier today.

The fight was supposed to take place on April 11 at the HP Pavillion in San Jose, Calif. Neither fighter is injured, but we have learned that the promotion decided to save Shields in order to have him fight on one of their network broadcasts against former EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler later in the year. That bout has not officially been signed. No word just on whether Joe Riggs will still be fighting on the card.
Strikeforce spokesman Mike Aframowitz confirmed to me that Shields vs. Lawler will take place in May. That's good news for MMA fans, because Shields vs. Lawler is a much better fight than Shields vs. Riggs (and a better fight than Lawler vs. TBA). In fact, Shields vs. Lawler is probably the single best fight Strikeforce can put together right now, given the fighters the promotion currently has under contract. Strikeforce has promised to give fans the best fights it can, and this is a sign that the organization plans to deliver.

UPDATE: Shields told MMAjunkie.com the fight will be contested at 182 pounds.

UPDATE 2: Although I referred to this as "good news for MMA fans," I've already heard from one fan who points out that it's not good news for fans who bought tickets to the April 11 show thinking Shields was on the card.