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UFC Makes Sense for Jake Shields

Jake ShieldsOn Oct. 23, 2008, three days after the EliteXC mixed martial arts promotion folded, UFC President Dana White was talking to a group of reporters in Chicago, promoting UFC 90, which would take place a couple days later. White was in good spirits, laughing at the demise of EliteXC, but he turned very serious at one point and said that the one EliteXC fighter he felt badly for is Jake Shields.

Shields was, until the fall of EliteXC, its welterweight champion. He's now the Strikeforce middleweight champion, but he'll soon be a free agent, and I think it would make a lot of sense, both for Shields and for White, if Shields signed with the UFC.

Every fighter says he wants to fight the best competition available to him, but I think Shields genuinely means it -- genuinely wants to test himself against the best -- as much as anyone in the sport. Shields is driven by the challenge of pushing himself in the cage, which is a big part of the reason that he's now fighting at middleweight. Other than his friend and training partner Nick Diaz, Strikeforce really doesn't have any welterweights who could challenge Shields. And for that matter, after Dan Henderson -- who will fight Shields in the main event of the April 17 CBS show -- Strikeforce really doesn't have any middleweights who are big challenges to Shields either.

In the UFC, Shields could find all kinds of challenging opponents. I'm sure he'd move back down to welterweight if he fought in the Octagon, and he'd get a top-notch opponent like Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves or Josh Koscheck right away. A win against one of those guys would likely lead to a title shot against Georges St. Pierre.

"I am happy with Strikeforce," Shields told MMA Junkie. "They've given me big fights like I asked for, so I'm happy with them. But also, I do want big fights, and of course the UFC has a lot of big fights as well."

The UFC doesn't just have big fights, it has the biggest fights in the sport. With White already on the record as an admirer of Shields' talents, and with Shields hoping to test himself against the best, it makes a lot of sense for the Henderson bout to be Shields' last in Strikeforce, and for his next fight to be in the UFC.

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