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Jake Shields Feels Pressure, Excitement for UFC Debut 11 Years in the Making

After over a decade in MMA, and winning multiple belts in multiple organizations across two weight classes, Jake Shields finally gets to live his dream of fighting in the UFC. The former EliteXC and Strikeforce champion has enough on his plate by debuting, but on Wednesday, UFC president Dana White added further incentive, saying Shields would "probably" be next in line for a title shot should he beat Martin Kampmann at UFC 121.

"I'm very excited about coming to the UFC," Shields said during a UFC 121 conference call. "I've wanted to fight here for 11 years and I finally made it. When I first started, I thought I'd be there in a year. It took a little longer than I thought."

Shields went on to say that he's already noticed positive changes while working with his new organization.

"The difference is there's way more media attention, way more hype, way more professionalism," he said. "They tell you what you're doing, when you're doing it, they have a staff. And I don't mean that as a knock on Strikeforce, they're just not as organized. It's nice to be in an organization that's so together."

While the decorated 11-year veteran has compiled a 25-4-1 record and has won 14 straight bouts, it's likely that he'll still walk into the octagon as a stranger to some fight fans who pay close attention to the UFC while virtually ignoring other promotions.

It's a situation for which he's prepared.

"When I've been going to UFC [events] I've been getting swarmed lately so obviously some of them know me. But some of them don't," he said. "It's like half-ass. So I need to go out there for people who don't know who I am and show them who I am on October 23. So I feel a lot of pressure to go out and give a great performance."

Shields also voiced a hope that other Strikeforce fighters would get the chance to introduce or re-introduce themselves to UFC fans -- namely his Skrap-Pack teammates Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez, both of whom hold title belts in the competing promotion.

"I'd love to see Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez come over, but that's really up to them and Dana to work out some kind of deal," he said. "Hopefully in the next year or two both of them will be coming over and joining me in the UFC."

In the meantime, Shields will finish final preparations for Kampmann, a skilled contender with a 17-3 record and a well-rounded game. During his UFC run, Kampmann has shown strong wrestling, but it's a situation Shields should get used to, as many of UFC's best welterweights have excellent wrestling credentials.

Shields is no different, a former collegiate wrestler who has become a jiu-jitsu ace over the years. While continually tweaking his game, he understands what has made him successful and will continue to showcase his strengths.

"Wrestling is my roots. I'm not going to go away from that," he said. "I've been doing a lot of wrestling again. Obviously that's what I worked on for [Dan] Henderson and I'm staying there. Guys like Kampmann, he's a great striker, great wrestler and has submissions. I'm working everything for this fight, trying to find a way to even it out and get the balance."

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