Among those taken aback by the announcement that the World Series of Fighting would be transitioning into the league-structured Professional Fighters League beginning in 2018 was Jake Shields, one of the promotion’s most recognizable fighters.
Shields, like the last opponent he faced in the cage, Jon Fitch, found out the new-fangled way that come January things are going to change. That is, when he looked at the Internet.
“Yeah, I kind of found out that as well, kind of reading about it online,” he told MMA Fighting. “I didn’t know too much about it so I called Ali [Abdel-Aziz] and talked to him a little bit, and got some details. He made it all sound pretty good. Some of the stuff is still being worked out — at least, as far as I know about it — but it sounds like it’s going to be a really cool thing. We just got to wait and see it happen now.”
The new format, in which details are still being devised, will feature a “three-point system,” in which fighters are guaranteed no less than three fights a year, a monthly paycheck, and an open chance to become the league champion. It is a tournament-based structure, that will feature playoffs and a championship, in which a million dollar purse will be up for grabs.
Though not everything is known as to how it will work, Shields says he is excited about the possibilities in the reimagined promotion.
“Yeah, you’ve got to see exactly how it’s done, but it sounds like they’re trying to give you a salary and stuff,” he said. “I mean, I have a contract, so I imagine it changing too much, but then more money if you win the whole thing. It sounds a little weird, a bunch of fights back-to-back, but I think I can handle that.”
Shields is coming off a unanimous decision loss in a welterweight title fight against Fitch at WSOF 34 in December. Overall he has gone 2-2 with the WSOF since debuting with the promotion against Ryan Ford in 2014. The 38-year old veteran is a former Strikeforce champion and an eight-time UFC veteran. He was riding a 3-1-1 streak when he came over from the UFC.
Overall, he said the switching of gears to the PFL was an exciting thing.
“It’s definitely something that could be fun and cool, and I’m excited to do something new,” he said. “I haven’t been in any tournaments in a long time It’ll be cool to do stuff like that again.”
The last time Shields competed in a tournament was one of a different stripe during the legendary Rumble on the Rock card back in 2006, when he beat Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit on the same night in Honolulu.
With the WSOF having lost many name fighters over the last couple of years — most recently its dual champion David Branch, bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes and lightweight champion Justin Gaethje — the future of the promotion seemed up in the air.
But with the new direction, Shields — who like everyone else is waiting for more details to come out — says it’s not so much a salvaging as it is a change of philosophy.
“WSOF wasn’t that bad, but it was kind of like the group was staying the same,” he said. “Shaking it up, and doing something different, it’ll be good because it had potential to be great, but it was close. It’s not quite there, I think hopefully this is the step they need.
In the meantime, Shields is awaiting news on his next fight under the WSOF banner, which will remain intact through the rest of 2017. He will complete in a grappling match against Bellator’s latest signee, Dillon Danis, at Submission Underground IV on May 14 in Portland, and is hoping to compete in the cage again in July.
He anticipates that will be his last fight under the WSOF banner, with PFL planning to operate on a schedule.
“I mean, I’ll probably just do this one [in July] because it sounds like starting in like January they’re going to do several together back-to-back,” he said. “So I think it makes sense to do one, get rested up, and get ready to go.”