The last time Jake Shields hit the scales and weighed 185 pounds, he was walking into a fight hardly anyone believed he could win.
Shields was facing former Pride champion Dan Henderson, who was making his Strikeforce debut at the time. Despite the Cesar Gracie fighter having picked up wins over both Robbie Lawler and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, few believed he could actually hang with one of the top middleweights in the world.
He was happy to prove them all wrong because outside of a rough first round, Shields dominated Henderson for the last 20 minutes and picked up arguably the biggest win of his career.
Just after that fight, Shields signed a new multi-fight deal with the UFC, and moved back down to welterweight, where he had most of his significant fights in MMA. While Shields lives with no regret, there is a part of him that wishes he had stayed at middleweight after getting quite comfortable in the weight class.
The opportunities presented at 170 pounds in the UFC, however, were just too good to pass up on at the time.
“Actually, when I first signed with the UFC, I actually said I wanted to fight a fight or two at 185 first, but 170 was really wide open at that time. There was no one for GSP (Georges St-Pierre) and the UFC didn't make me drop, but they encouraged it,” Shields revealed to MMAWeekly Radio.
“GSP's a guy I wanted to fight for years, and with it sounding like a fast track to GSP, it was something I couldn't turn down.”
Shields' return to 170 pounds was met with mixed results. He went 2-2 over his four fights thus far in the UFC's welterweight division including a loss to St-Pierre at UFC 129.
Following his last fight, a victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama in February, Shields started to open up to the idea of moving back up to middleweight again. The weight cut to get back down to 170 pounds was draining, and he started to notice the ill effects in his fights, something he hadn't dealt with when he was a middleweight.
“Sometimes in my other camps at 170, I'd feel great and then the last week or two I'd start feeling sucked up and weak. Not having that to worry about is going to be nice, too,” said Shields.
“It's not fun taking the weight off and putting it back on.”
At UFC 150, Shields will face former Ultimate Fighter finalist Ed Herman, who comes into the fight on a three-fight win streak. When he decided to move back up to 185 pounds, Shields didn't want a warm-up fight, or something to ease him back into the division.
Just like his last trip to middleweight, Shields wanted to swim with the sharks and when Herman was offered as an opponent, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I want to get right in that title mix. 185 is wide open and everybody's talking about who's next. I want to go out there and hopefully put on a great performance and get to throw my name in the mix,” said Shields.
While his last four fights have all been at 170 pounds, it's hard to ignore Shields' perfect 3-0 record at middleweight with all three wins coming over established veterans in the division. He's not expecting any special treatment because he's moving back up in weight, but Shields believes he does have some credentials to his name that others in the division do not.
“You never know what counts for what, but it's got to count for something,” Shields stated. “I'm the last guy to beat Dan Henderson and he's fighting for the 205-pound belt, so that's got to give me some credit at 185 and if I can go out there and win, and win in a dominant fashion, it will get people talking about me and other contenders at 185.”
In Shields' mind there is no clear cut No. 1 contender at middleweight right now with everyone clamoring to get the next shot at champion Anderson Silva. His hope is to beat Ed Herman at UFC 150 this weekend, and then face any of the top contenders in the division and make his mark as a top 185 pounder.
“It's up for grabs and that's why it's hard to say who deserves a title shot. I don't even know. (Chris) Weidman looked amazing versus Mark Munoz, and then you have (Michael) Bisping's got to be close, and even though Chael Sonnen lost, considering what he did the last time, a couple more wins he could be right back in there. There's lots of guys in the mix,” said Shields.
“I wouldn't be next in line, but if I beat him, there's not one particular person I want to fight, but I want one of the big contenders. A Bisping, Weidman, (Tim) Boetsch, one of the guys that's close to the title.”