Local UFC fighter Shields aims to bring home gold on big stage

From his SOMA apartment, mixed martial artist Jake Shields can count down the hours until his 170-pound Ultimate Fighting Championship main event title bout on AT&T Park’s clock tower.

The 32-year-old fighter aims to defy 3½-to-1 odds versus UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 on Saturday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada, and bring another title to The City.

An all-time UFC record crowd of 55,000 — nearly double the previous attendance mark — will root for the Canadian titleholder when Shields strives for his 16th consecutive victory. The former San Francisco State wrestler is no stranger to the underdog role despite holding four world titles in his 11-year career.

“To me, I’m going out there planning to win this fight,” he said after a grappling session at the El Nino Training Center in the Bayview. “These kind of things don’t psych me out.”

Shields has overcome odds as high as 10-to-1 while collecting all accolades available to him outside the UFC. That includes an eight-man tournament victory and a belt at middleweight, 15-pounds above his natural weight class.

Going undefeated since December 2004 is most impressive considering he provided for his 10-year-old daughter Maddie as a single father with the rigors of full-time fighting.

When he debuted in the UFC in October, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion had a performance he calls his worst in six years. Still, his stacked résumé earned the streaking challenger a title shot against the UFC’s current welterweight kingpin, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

“UFC champ is the best in the world,” the Mountain Ranch native said. “A lot of people rank Georges St. Pierre No. 1 pound-for-pound, so you go and beat him, people will take notice.”

Stopping St. Pierre short of a divisional record six consecutive defenses would be an ideal way for Shields to gain some of the notoriety that made “GSP” the first MMA athlete to sign a Gatorade deal.

A three-part, three-week “UFC Primetime” series on Spike TV to hype the fight shined light on Shields’ preparation for the scheduled five-round, 25-minute contest. The lifelong vegetarian is a PETA and Knockout Dogfighting spokesman, and he is comfortable with increased media obligations if it means he can fulfill his prizefighting dream of being undeniably recognized as the best fighter in his weight or in the world.

“It was definitely a tough time when you’re broke, ranked top 10 in the world and no one knows who you are,” he said, “but that just gave me more fire to train harder and harder and push myself to be the fighter I am today.”

Shields hopes The City falls in love with MMA like he did 11 years ago after he brings another championship back to San Francisco.

“I’m going for the UFC title,” Shields said. “I want to do my part at least. Bring home another world title to San Francisco and just show that San Francisco is one of the great sports cities.”


UFC 129

WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Rogers Centre, Toronto

TV: Pay-per-view

MAIN EVENT: Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre (21-2) vs. challenger Jake Shields (26-4-1)

INFO: www.ufc.com

VIEWING PARTY: The Parlor, 2801 Leavenworth St., S.F., www.theparlorsf.com

Bay Area NewssportsTitleUFC

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