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Jake Shields inks multi-fight deal with WSOF

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Like several UFC veterans before him, Jake Shields found a soft landing spot with WSOF. The top-ranked free agent welterweight inked an exclusive deal with the promotion on Thursday.

News of the signing was initially reported by Bleacher Report and subsequently confirmed by

Shields' manager Lex McMahon characterized the signing as a multi-fight deal, while WSOF executive vice president told's Ariel Helwani that officials are targeting a promotional debut for Shields in July.

Shields joins a welterweight division already rife with former UFC veterans, including WSOF champion Rousimar Palhares and top contenders Jon Fitch and Josh Burkman.

"Jake is happy to call WSOF home and is looking forward to a long relationship," McMahon said.

A former Strikeforce champion, Shields was released from the UFC in early April following his first loss in almost third years, a lopsided decision to Hector Lombard at UFC 171.

"I think, obviously, Jake was disappointed," McMahon recently said on The MMA Hour. "He is a guy who for many years has been a champion, fought on a championship level, been top ranked. He was on a four-fight win streak prior to the Lombard loss, so I think it was something that took him by surprise, but he's prepared to move forward.

"It just shows you the nature of this sport. The right performance, he potentially fights for the title. The wrong performance, he's looking for a new job."

Shields first joined the UFC in 2010 following the dissolution of Strikeforce. The 35-year-old compiled a 4-3 record with one no contest over the course of his stay, including a unanimous decision loss to then welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129.

Should Shields debut for WSOF in July, it may be at WSOF 11, an event which already features two title bouts -- Palhares vs. Fitch and Justin Gaethje vs. Nick Newell -- as well as the WSOF debut of fellow UFC veteran Melvin Guillard.