Beezer finally lands his man: Jake Shields

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

TORONTO - Jake Shields can only hope that his trip to Toronto in April to fight Canadian mixed martial arts icon Georges St. Pierre is a little easier than the one he endured this week.

Shields was set to arrive at Toronto Pearson on Thursday for some media appearances and autograph signings, but his flight out of New York was cancelled because of bad weather. So he rebooked for Friday, out of JFK, but a certain U.S. airline then refused to allow him get on the plane, he said, because his passport was “too worn out.”

He then jumped in a cab, made the trip over to Newark and caught a Porter flight to Toronto’s Island Airport — a day late, a little tired, but still smiling and ready to go.

Joking, he quipped to a Toronto reporter that he never realized that Mother Nature AND Delta Airlines were also huge GSP fans. But why not? Everyone else seems to be.

But this is something you quickly realize chatting with the laid-back Californian with the cauliflower ears and loopy grin — he doesn’t sweat the little things, and he wasn’t about to let some travel hassles get the best of him, just like he’s not going to allow the pro-GSP hysteria to throw him off his game plan.

Shields, who faces welterweight champion St. Pierre on April 30 at the Rogers Centre — the first UFC bout ever to be held in Ontario — understands that he’s considered a huge underdog against the world champion. But he’s also quietly confident, despite the many naysayers, that he will surprise the MMA world and defeat the man who is widely considered the best pound-for-pound UFC fighter in the world today.

“Some people going into this fight think I can’t beat this guy. That’s not my mind-set, I’m going out there to win and take the title,” said Shields, who arrived at a downtown eatery sporting a black Jake Shields T-shirt, grubby blue jeans and worn out running shoes. He looks like that guys who fixes your furnace.

“I’m riding a huge win streak versus good opponents. I haven’t lost in six years. I’ve been an underdog before. I was a 4-1 underdog against Dan Henderson. In Japan, I think I was a 20-1 underdog vs. (Hayato) Sakurai and I went out and beat him. I think if guys are looking past me, it’s a big mistake.

“But George is too smart, he’s not,” added Shields, who was in NYC this week training with Brazilian jiu-jitsu king Marcelo Garcia, one of the greatest submission grapplers in the world.

Shields’ fight against

St. Pierre will be his second for the UFC, his first a split decision against Martin Kampmann on Oct 23. He won that fight, but didn’t win a lot of converts and one of the reasons St. Pierre is such a big favourite is because that lacklustre performance.

But Shields, 32, says it’s wrong to weigh his career on that one fight. He’s only been with UFC for a few months, but he is a former Strikeforce middleweight champion as well as a former Shooto and Elite XC champ. And he has won 15 bouts in a row.

“That was a bad fight,” he admitted. “But I will be a lot different for this fight. If I fight Georges like I did that night against (Kampmann), there’s no way I’d beat him. But that’s not how I’m going to show. Not to make excuses, but that wasn’t me.”

Asked what it will take to defeat St. Pierre, who handily beat loudmouth Yank Josh Koscheck in Montreal on Dec.11, Shields was non-committal.

“It’s a difficult task, because he is well rounded,” he said. “He’s a fighter with not a lot of holes in his game. He’s got good stand up, good wrestling, good submission (skills). It’s not easy, but I think the key is — I have a few plans I don’t necessarily want to give away — he has some holes in his grappling. He can definitely be submitted. He’s fought great wrestlers and he’s fought great jiu jitsu guys, but he’s never fought a great wrestler with great jiu jitsu.”

Shields does find it somewhat amusing that many

St. Pierre supporters believe their man to be a superior grappler. St. Pierre has made noise about trying out for the 2012 Canadian Olympic wrestling team. But Shields began wrestling when he was nine and was a two-time All American at Cuesta College and competed internationally, winning gold at the 2005 Pan American championship.

But one thing he won’t do is bad-mouth his opponent, unlike Koscheck, because he has too much respect for St. Pierre and actually considers him a friend.

“In fights like this, you got to make yourself stop liking your opponent, because you’re out there to hurt each other,” he said. “When it’s fight time, if I take his arm, I’m going to try to break it. It can’t be like, ‘Oh I like the guy, I don’t want to snap his arm in half.’ ”


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