Jake Shields says he's open to any resolution to his contract impasse with World Series of Fighting -- whether that's fighting for the vacant welterweight title against Jon Fitch, fighting out the last bout of his contract against someone else, or coming to a new deal.
But he's not happy with the way company officials have handled the situation.
"They're playing bulls--- little games with me," Shields told MMAFighting.com.
Tuesday, WSOF president Ray Sefo posted a story to the company web site saying a planned April 1 bout to fill the vacant WSOF title between Shields and Fitch was off, with Joao Zeferino taking Shields' place.
Sefo squarely placed the blame on Shields.
"While I thought everyone was on board to make this fight happen, unfortunately Jake Shields has informed us that he does not intend to honor the terms of his existing contract at this time and declined to sign a bout agreement to fight Jon Fitch, so we've had to go in a different direction," Sefo said.
Shields takes exception to the way his contractual situation was portrayed. According to Shields, who is coming up on the last bout of a four-fight WSOF deal, his main concern is that if he was to defeat Fitch, his current contract would be bound by the championship clause, which would eliminate his ability to negotiate his deal at a time when he would otherwise be a free agent.
For his part, Shields says he was looking for an increase in the show money on his current deal, and feels they weren't far off on contractual terms. But according to Shields, WSOF basically told him to take the title shot or leave it, and would not offer him the opportunity to take another fight against a different opponent and finish out his contract.
"They basically said they were just going to sit on my contract," Shields said. "It was take the title fight, or no fight at all. I signed the contract I signed of my own free will, I'm not complaining about that, but it's either take the title fight and get stuck with my old deal if I win, or no other fight. This is happening right when I was about to start my camp."
Regardless, Shields says he's willing to come to a resolution.
"We weren't that far off on money," Shields said. "I'm still open to signing a new contract with them, or I'm willing to take another fight and finish out my contract. It's the whole ‘take the title fight or nothing else' thing that bugs me."
So that leaves the slot against Fitch to Zeferino (20-7), a submission ace with 15 first-round tapouts to his credit. He was most recently in the news for dropping down to lightweight in order to take part in WSOF's one-night, eight-man tournament in November, where he scored quarterfinal and semifinal victories before losing to Brian Foster in the finals.
WSOF's welterweight title is vacant after a highly controversial bout between Shields and former champion Rousimar Palhares WSOF 22 in August in Las Vegas. Palhares, who entered the bout with a history of holding leg lock submissions well after tapouts, did the same to Shields after submitting him in the third round of a highly competitive fight, and got a two-year suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission as a result.
Fitch (27-7-1) has won three of his past four fights, with a loss to Palhares the only blemish in that stretch.