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Jake Shields on Beating Kampmann, UFC Title Shot, Facing GSP and More

After over a decade winning titles around the world, Jake Shields finally made a trip down the aisle to the octagon at last Saturday night's UFC 121. Squaring off against the underrated Martin Kampmann, Shields held off a major scare before prevailing via split decision in the night's co-main event.

With the win, Shields is likely to finally get a crack at UFC gold when he faces the winner of December's Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck welterweight title match in 2011.

Shields spoke to MMA Fighting about the victory, weight issues and back problems, the possibility of bringing his Cesar Gracie teammates to UFC , and the prospect of facing St. Pierre on enemy territory.

Mike Chiappetta: You've been around the UFC before with your teammates that you corner but what did it feel like for you to live the UFC experience all weekend? Any different?
Jake Shields: It was pretty crazy, the whole week leading up, all the media, all the hype, the crowd. It was definitely a different feel. I really liked it and plan on staying with the UFC for a long time.

Of course you've fought for huge crowds before but was there a different energy in the arena?
A little different but you know, I'm too much in fighting mode to notice. There's definitely more energy, more production, more noise. I think it's definitely crazy for anyone fighting in the UFC for the first time and it obviously wasn't my best performance but I'm happy went out there, got through it and got the win in my first UFC fight.

How would you rate your performance overall?
I just felt right from the beginning, after two minutes I felt really tired. I was in great shape for the fight but for some reason, my body was not working too well out there. It's unfortunate but I was able to tough it out and kept fighting regardless. I did some things right of course, but overall I felt I wasn't as fast, as sharp, as explosive as I should've been out there.

Was Kampmann tougher than you expected?
He's as tough as I expected. I thought he was really good all along. I said all along he was a tough opponent and he did a great job stopping my takedowns, moving in and out. His jiu-jitsu is great, the way he scrambles to his feet. He did a great job making the fight really tough for me.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
Lost more weight early. In the actual fight, it's a matter of how I felt, not what I was doing. So I would get my weight in check. Luckily I have a lot of time for my next fight. I was really big when I got notice for this fight because I was fighting at middleweight. It was tough getting down. But now that I made it for my first time it should be much easier next time.

What was your weight when you first got the call?
I was about 200 pounds. I had maybe eight or nine weeks before the fight. When I was fighting at 170 before, I always had my weight within 15 pounds. I'd never been that big before. And when I was fighting 185, 15 pounds was the most I'd ever veer from the weight. So 30 pounds was by far the most I've ever had to drop.

How much did you have to go by fight week?
It was not fun. I was 20 over fight week. It's all my fault, i let myself get that heavy. It's stupid and not something I want to do again. But it's a good learning experience. Whenever you make mistakes, that's how you learn. Experience teaches you a lot. Obviously being a professional it was a stupid mistake. With how many fights I've had I shouldn't make a stupid mistake like that but I did. But I got through it, and I'm going learn from it and be a lot stronger when I fight for the title.

Where did the cut go wrong?
I thought I'd drop it earlier, then after a couple weeks I was too heavy and I tried dropping. It wasn't coming off as fast as it could. I wasn't able to really run for this camp either. I had some back injuries early on in camp. It was 100 percent by the time of the fight but I didn't want to go back into running last minute and throw it out again. That didn't help because I usually run the weight off. So that kind of sucked.

How bad was your back?
It was like two months before the fight and was nothing too serious. It went out on me and I wasn't able to train for a while but it was no big deal. I was 100 percent by fight time and it wasn't an issue in the fight as all.

So there was never a concern you might have to drop out of the fight?
That was a concern. I was thinking I might have to drop off but luckily I was able to get it in check in time. It stayed 100 percent healthy. Once I got in camp it didn't get reaggravated at all.

So did you get a full camp in?
I got like 7 weeks, so I had enough time.

There are some people who don't believe a split-decision win warrants a title shot. What's your response to that?
I think you've got to look back and look at my career. Look at the 15-fight win streak I've had over some really good opponents. If you fight long enough, you'll have some really good performances and some not-so-great performances. If you're able to win in your not-so-great performances and keep the streak going, it shows where you're at, so I feel I definitely deserve it.

It's probably going to be 5-6 months til you fight again while you wait for GSP or Koscheck. How will you use that time?
Probably do lots of striking and as always, trying to improve all aspects of my game.

You could face one of two guys. Are you already starting to think about fighting GSP or Koscheck?
I'm looking at them both. I'll approach them slightly different but they're not that different of an opponent. They're both wrestling-based, they both can stand and both have good jiu-jitsu so they're not that different. I just think Koscheck likes to stand and bang a little more while GSP likes to take it to the ground a little more.

Who will win the Koscheck-GSP fight?
It's a really close fight. It's tough call. I give a slight edge to GSP but I wouldn't be shocked by any means if Koscheck pulls it out.

You've always said you want to face the best. GSP's been considered the best welterweight for a while now. Are you sort of hoping you get to face him?
Even though I'm kind of friends with Koscheck, I have a preference for GSP, just because he's a bigger name, the more hype and the guy I've wanted to fight forever. So I'll be torn watching the fight, being friendly with Koscheck but wanting to fight GSP. From a business standpoint, I'd rather it be GSP.

How close are you with Koscheck?
We're not that close; we're more sparring partners. We're not great friends like we're hanging out together but we've always got along well in the gym. I know a lot of people don't care for him but I've always thought he was a good guy.

When was the last time you trained together?
I trained with him a lot for the [Dan] Henderson fight.

Since your game has been predicated on takedowns & submissions for most of your career, what is the plan B if takedowns are hard to come by against GSP or Kos?
Stand with him obviously. I'll be working a lot of boxing between now and the next six months.

Will you bring in someone special to help prepare?
I have a few people in mind for sure. I have some plans. I think for this fight, with either one of these guys, it will be the most important aspect to improve.

Speaking of training partners, you were asked in the press conference last week about bringing some of your Cesar Gracie teammates with you into the UFC and you said you hoped they'd be here soon. Do you believe the UFC would be a better situation for Nick Diaz & Gilbert Melendez?
Yes, of course. Strikeforce is a good organization. But ultimately, I feel they don't push the right people. I don't feel like Nick & Gilbert have gotten the attention they deserve. They pick guys like Cung Le to push. And they push Gina Carano and Frank Shamrock. But they have Nick and Gil, who are both top five fighters in the world. UFC would be the best spot for both of them.

Did you have that same complaint when you were there?
Yeah, definitely. In my first fight in the UFC, they gave me way more push than Strikeforce did the whole time I was there. The UFC just knows how to market. They know how to build stars and they know what they're doing. They're really professional.

The UFC is likely to make its debut in Toronto in April, and the timeline seems to sync up with a possible title defense for the St. Pierre-Koscheck winner. If it is St. Pierre, and it is Toronto, a huge MMA market and a decidedly pro-GSP crowd, how would you feel about that?
It would be awesome. Obviously in Toronto it would be all GSP fans or mostly GSP fans. I have no problem with that. I think it'd be awesome to go there and fight him, especially in front of that many people. I've been to Toronto recently. It's a great place, they have a phenomenal fan base. They love MMA up there and I really hope we're able to fight up in Toronto.

What would it mean to you to be the UFC welterweight champion?
It's been my dream for the last 10 years. It would be amazing. I have an opportunity in front of me to achieve that now. I'm going to work harder than ever for the next six months. The closer I get, the harder it makes me want to work.

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