The odds-makers and fans may already have counted out American Jake Shields against Georges St. Pierre in their upcoming UFC 129 welterweight title fight, but Shields says he has other plans for the Canadian superstar.
And even St. Pierre acknowledges this title defence will be no walk in the park.
The 32-year-old Shields, who has won his previous 15 fights dating back to 2005, isn't fazed that he comes into the historic bout at the Rogers Centre on April 30 as a 4-1 underdog, nor is he worried by what is likely to be a very hostile, pro-St. Pierre crowd.
"It's a little surprising, but it doesn't bother me at all," Shields said over the phone on Thursday of his underdog status. "I was 4-1 against (Dan) Henderson and that also surprised me. Mine and Henderson's records at the time, we had pretty much accomplished the same things. But it doesn't bother me at all. I don't look at myself as an underdog going into this fight. I look at us as two guys going in even and in my mind I'm going out there to win."
Shields may also have been the underdog against Henderson, but he came out and dominated after a shaky opening round.
Can he beat the odds again against St. Pierre? It will be difficult. There certainly is no denying that St. Pierre is on a different plane than Henderson. But it's a plane Shields has wanted to test for some time.
"The fight against GSP is something I've wanted for years," Shields said. "I wanted to test myself against the best and I certainly think he is the best."
Many would agree with that assessment.
But St. Pierre, who is on an eight-fight win streak, including six straight title defences, said Shields, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist and a former wrestler, shouldn't be taken lightly.
"The odds are ridiculous. People who make the odds, they don't even know the sport very well," the 29-year-old champ said. "Let me tell you guys something about Jake Shields: When everyone thought he was going to lose to Robbie Lawler, I knew he was going to win. When everyone thought he was going to lose to Dan Henderson, I told all my friends he was going to win."
Nice words from GSP, but can Shields really overcome St. Pierre's sublime skills and 55,000 screaming fans, most of whom will be in the Canadian's corner?
"I've never had 50,000 people booing me," Shields joked. But "even though I'm going into hostile territory, I've got like 20 guys coming with me (from his training team) who are going to be surrounding me, so it's not going to feel like hostile territory. I feel very fortunate.
"It's going to be me and Georges in there fighting. The crowd can do whatever they want; it doesn't really bother me that much."
Come fight night, we'll see if those words still ring true.
This and That
In order to deal with Shields' well-honed Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, GSP brought in Roger Gracie and Braulio Estima to his training camp to sharpen his own. Shields thought that was a pretty good idea. "They are phenomenal jiu-jitsu guys. I think it was very smart of Georges to train with guys like that. But that's what I would expect from him," Shields said "¦ Prior to his previous fight, a victory over Martin Kampmann at UFC 121, Shields had to shed more than 20 pounds in 24 hours. He said it is something he won't let happen again. "I was 182 this morning, which for me is a nice easy cut (down to the 170-pound fight weight). It's going to be no problem. I made a huge mistake last time, so I'm certainly not going to do that again," Shields said "¦ The UFC announced late Wednesday night that as well as two UFC 129 preliminary fights being available on Spike TV at 8 p.m. Eastern, five preliminary fights will be available on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.