I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Cesar Gracie camp or those responsible for signing top-tier talent, but would anyone care to explain why Jake Shields isn’t fighting in the UFC?
Again, I’m not sure what’s on Shields’s mind. Perhaps he’s satisfied with the paydays from his K-1, ROTR, and BodogFight. My guess is these upstart or new-to-North America organizations are keenly aware of the value Shields adds by being a part of their roster. I’m sure he’s collecting respectable checks.
But is he satisfied with the current level of exposure? Or how about the quality of opponents? One always hears from fighters the desire to be the best and in so doing, fighting the best. Shields isn’t fighting scrubs, but he’s also not fighting top flight talent on a regular basis either. Since 2005 his only wins of note are over Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit. Both wins are excellent notches in his belt, but for a supposed top 10 welterweight it’s not enough.
As much as it seems the UFC is giving up by not signing Shields, there might actually be a method to the madness. The welterweight division is filled to the gills with talented fighters. In fact, the UFC often appears to have more than it can handle. Jon Fitch doesn’t get the exposure or attention he deserves and he’s gone undefeated in the UFC with 5 excellent victories. Adding Shields to the mix would delight hardcore fans and create some exciting fights, but would it detract from the UFC ‘s ability to market stars and create household names?
The UFC appears to be bleeding PRIDE to death by taking their major stars. And since they’re doing it slowly, new fans of the UFC are constantly learning about new fighters they’re never heard of who are apparently very good. The newest is Dan Henderson, but Aureilo was also recently signed. And you have to expect more top-tier fighters with marketable images and backgrounds – such as the Canadian/Korean middleweight Denis Kang – are going to be recruited. I wonder if the UFC is simply too worried about saturating their budding business with too many unknowns for new fans to keep pace.
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