Jake Shields is gearing up for another championship run. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion and EliteXC welterweight champ will be looking to add Professional Fighters League gold to his collection.
His journey starts on Thursday when he fights Ray Cooper III at PFL 2018 #3 in the promotion’s welterweight division. This is the first of two regular season match-ups for Shields. If he places in the top-8 of the 12-man welterweight division, he’ll have earned a postseason shot. From there, he has to win two fights in the same night to advance to the championship. Cooper III poses the first regular season bout.
“I think he’s talented. A good wrestler, a heavy power puncher,” Shields told the media during PFL 2018 #1. “Crazy thing is I’ve actually fought his father twice. It shows how long I’ve been in the sport. I lost to him the first time [via majority decision] then came back and submitted him. It’s crazy that when I saw the name, I’m like, ‘Ray Cooper? Sounds familiar.’ I looked him up and sure enough, it was the son of the guy I fought. It got super interesting and it adds some extra excitement to it.”
Shields (32-9-1 MMA) has seen it all. In addition to capturing two world titles at different weight classes, he’s come close to more gold. He fell short to Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight strap, and fought twice for the belt under the World Series of Fighting, the promotion PFL used to be. He has victories over Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley and Mike Pyle.
Shields feels that winning the PFL 2018 welterweight championship would cement his legacy.
“I’ve already accomplished so much,” Shields said. “If I go out there and win another world title at 39, it just shows how great I am. All these young up-and-comers, to go out there and beat all these guys.”
Shields will be competing against the likes of UFC veteran Rick Story, Russian prospect Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Joao Zeferino among others.
Shields, a WSOF staple, made the jump to PFL because it offered a fresh format different from any other organization.
“There are no politics,” Shields said. “[PFL] is doing a season. If you win, go you move forward. The UFC, they pick who gets the titles based off who they like a lot. They let guys pick their fights. There’s no picking your fights here. It’s a set system. You go and you fight.”
Of course, the money was enticing as well. Each of the six weight class’ tournament winners will earn $1 million.
“I’ve fought in all these shows, won world titles, fought all over the world,” Shields said. “If I win this, that will be my best payday yet, so it’s pretty crazy.”
Shields will be competing for the first time since July 29, 2017–almost a year. He won that bout via unanimous decision over Danny Davis Jr.
“This is something that’s been talked about for awhile so I’m glad it’s finally kicking off,” he said. “I haven’t fought in really close to a year now. I’m ready to get back in there and win another world title.”
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