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Jake Shields: Every Fight a Title Fight

"I do this because I want to be the very best." - Jake Shields

Five round fights are not for the timid. And if you’ve been fighting the championship distance for as long as Jake Shields has, there are pros and cons to competing in such wars of attrition.

“The good part is that you know you’re in a main event or fighting for a title, so it’s good to get used to fighting those rounds again,” he said. “But it’s also a lot of wear and tear on the body, so it’s kind of nice to be training for a three rounder.”

Fresh from a five round split decision win over Demian Maia in October, Shields will be back to 15 minutes or less of work this Saturday against Hector Lombard, yet despite not having to go through the rigors of preparing for a 25 minute fight, this time around he wouldn’t have minded putting in the extra rounds.

“I’d prefer it to be a five rounder,” said Shields. “I think Hector’s a guy who gets more tired in the later rounds and he’s really strong in the first couple rounds, but it (preparing for a three rounder) definitely makes the sparring a little easier. Sparring five fives every day starts wearing you down.”

Regardless, the five rounders are good prep for what Shields hopes will be a year that ends with a championship belt around his waist. It’s the goal of every fighter, but at 170 pounds, that dream feels a little more real after longtime titleholder Georges St-Pierre vacated his belt late last year. Shields already challenged GSP for the title in 2011, but after a competitive, yet losing, effort, he admits that if he has his way, his second title shot would be against the Montrealer, who is currently on hiatus from the Octagon. > Watch: Shields vs. GSP on UFC Fight Pass

“GSP’s one of the greatest fighters that’s ever lived,” said Shields. “I always wanted to take the belt from him, but just winning it would be a dream of mine and it would be huge. And the good thing is that GSP is not officially retired; he’s just taking a break, so I can always win that belt and get a chance to fight him again.”

Yet before any serious title talk, Shields has to deal with a Cuban powerhouse in Lombard, whose welterweight debut last October saw him knock Nate Marquardt out in under two minutes. That’s an intimidating thing to think about, but not for Shields, who has been in with some of the biggest punchers in the sport, whether it was Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, Dan Henderson, or Jake Ellenberger.

“You’ve got to pay attention and hopefully not get caught,” said Shields. “I’ve been in a lot of these tough fights and I know I can take a shot, but someone like Lombard is certainly someone you don’t want landing one of those shots on you. So you have to be aware of where you’re at at all times.”

And when it comes to the fighter who has hit him the hardest, it’s got to be “Hendo,” who Shields defeated in defense of his Strikeforce middleweight title in 2010.

“Generally, I take them (the shots) pretty well,” he said. “I know a couple times Lawler hit me and those never really fazed me at all. When Henderson hit me, I did go black for a second and I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I thought I had tripped. (Laughs) I didn’t realize I had been dropped by Henderson until a couple days later when I watched the fight. I was like ‘oh, I didn’t trip.’”

He didn’t, but he did win the fight, and if the 35-year-old Californian is anything, he’s a winner. He hasn’t lost since getting stopped by Ellenberger in 2011, with victories over Yoshihiro Akiyama, Tyron Woodley, and Maia. And if he doesn’t get the attention that other welterweight contenders get, it may be because he’s not one to toot his own horn. He also believes that to get that attention, he needs to deliver his first finish since submitting Lawler in their 2009 Strikeforce bout, and that’s something he’s looking for this weekend in Dallas.

“I think some of these guys get more respect and stuff, but I haven’t finished my last few opponents, so I need to go out there and get a decisive finish,” he said. “Lombard’s certainly a hard guy to finish, and I’m pretty sure he’s never been finished, so I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I definitely want to go out there and put on a great fight and try to put him away so I can get my title shot.”

And if it’s Lawler who emerges from Saturday’s main event against Johny Hendricks with the welterweight belt, that would work just fine for Shields, who already has a built-in storyline with “Ruthless” after their first bout nearly five years ago.

“Definitely,” agrees Shields. “And I like Lawler too. He’s a really nice guy and I never had any problems with him when I fought him. So I’m glad to see him doing so well right now.”

That’s Jake Shields. He’s not a trash talker, he’s quick to praise his opponents – past, present, and future – and he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a prizefighter. But when it comes to competition, no one takes it more seriously, and when he’s squaring off against the elite, that gets him even more amped up.

“I do this because I want to be the very best,” he said. “My last three fights – Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, and now Hector Lombard – they’re three of the very best, and I’m fighting them all in under a year. So these fights are great. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind an easy fight every now and again (Laughs), but these are the fights that ultimately drive me more.”