Next Saturday night's World Series of Fighting title fight between Jake Shields and Rousimar Palhares has been a little bit personal in the lead-up, particularly for the one-time Strikeforce champion.
Shields has gone on record saying that he's gong to "take out" WSOF's current welterweight champion Palhares, whom he considers a dirty fighter that intentionally tries to hurt people.
On Wednesday's WSOF 22 media call, the 36-year-old challenger Shields reiterated his stance on Palhares.
"I don't remember exactly what I said, but hey, Palhares is a guy I don't really care for," he said. "He's a dirty guy who likes hurting people. He doesn't let go. He plays like he's a nice guy after breaking someone's leg when he doesn't let go. He's just a bad person, and it makes it fun to go out there and punch him."
Shields and Palhares -- two decorated jiu-jitsu practitioners who've had successful runs in the UFC -- will headline WSOF 22 at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Aug. 1. It's a fight that's been brewing for a long time, since Shields made his WSOF debut against Ryan Ford in Oct. 2014.
Since being cut from the UFC after holding a heel hook after the tap against Mike Pierce in 2013, Palhares (17-6) has been as polarizing a figure as he's been a dominant one. Palhares won the 170-pound title against Steve Carl at WSOF 9, and then tapped Jon Fitch with a kneebar nine months later. He was fined and suspended for holding a submission too long against Tomasz Drwal all the way back in 2011.
When asked to reply to Shields' sentiment, as well as his reputation as a dirty fighter among others in the division, the 35-year old Palhares said he didn't let the talk bother him.
"It doesn't really bug me," the Brazilian said through an interpreter. "Everybody's good at jiu-jitsu and I know that I have to have tight positions to submit great fighters, so it doesn't really bug me at all. It used to, but it doesn't really bug me anymore."
Dirty or not, none of his last three opponents has lasted more than 90 seconds against Palhares, who might be the strongest submission fighter in the game. When Shields was asked if he spent time in his camp defending leg locks, the American jiu-jitsu fighter said it was business as usual.
"Like every fight, I mostly just focus on what I do best, but I spent a little extra time doing leglocks," he said. "I definitely studied him a little more. I went to New York, worked with some guys out there. Went and worked with Dean Lister, and I feel a little bit more confident with leglocks. Like you said, I may not care for Palhares, but he is good at leglocks. That's one thing he's amazing at, and he's a dangerous guy, but I feel really confident right now."