After the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced the signing of mixed martial arts fighter and former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields, 31, UFC President Dana White officially welcomed him into the folds of the promotion on Twitter on Monday.
Shields also posted the news of his UFC contract on Twitter and thanked White for his support. He will return to the talent-rich welterweight division after fighting middleweight for Strikeforce. Prior to that he was the Elite XC welterweight champion, not once but twice.
“I’ve pretty much been everywhere and held the title everywhere except the UFC, and there’s nothing like the UFC,” said Shields, a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt. “When I first started fighting, it was always where I wanted to be, and for whatever reason it kept eluding me. I think I’ve done everything in my career that I could do without being in the UFC, and now it’s my time to go in there and make a run in the UFC and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Although neither Strikeforce nor Elite XC have offered Shields the same kind of challenge the UFC can offer him, he is to date still one of the most under-rated MMA fighters in the U.S. His win against Dan Henderson at Strikeforce: Nashville last April finally made White notice him. Naturally, the UFC did not waste any time to start negotiations with Shields while denouncing any kind of further interest in former UFC champion Henderson.
“I truly love the sport and I want to test myself,” said Shields of his insistence on fighting the best in the world. “I don’t want to just get some fame and money. Of course, it’s always nice if that comes along with it, but I truly go out there and fight because I want to test myself against the best and see how it goes. If I had to go out there and fight guys that I don’t think are a test, that just doesn’t excite me.”
Shields confirmed on his official website that he will face top 10 contender Martin Kampman in his UFC debut at UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif. Kampman won an unanimous decision over Paulo Thiago last month and will certainly not give Shields a warm welcome.
Depending on the outcome Shields might get a shot at reigning UFC champion Georges St-Pierre after that. Otherwise he will have to battle it out with top contenders Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves–even if not necessarily in that order. If GSP indeed retires after a desired bout with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva according to rumors, a title bout between two top contenders would be inevitable. But it remains to be seen how White will rank Shields in the UFC welterweight division after his fight against Kampman.
Learn more about Jake Shields in the video below: