I find myself somewhat fascinated with exactly what type of mental training that Jake Shields is putting into his preparation for his upcoming UFC129 bout with Georges “Rush” St. Pierre. The card is being held at the sold out, 55,000 seat, Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 30 and has the makings of what could be an instant classic. The commercial for the Pay Per View, in my opinion is simply the very best fight promo that the UFC has ever done. This is going to be a Pay Per View to remember.
As I watched the commercial for the very first time, I remember thinking about how appropriate it really was. You got the welterweight kingpin, St. Pierre walking down the hall in the midst of an overcrowded media scrum. Coming the other way, Shields, alone, simple, quiet, determined. They walk by one another and for a brief moment make nose to nose eye contact. When mixed with the wicked song by Fort Minor, we have a fight worth watching.
For Shields, It must be absolutely difficult to try to block out all of the variables that play right into the hands of his opponent as the date slowly creeps toward us. I am curious whether the people that are coaching him as he nears the title shot are taking the time to work on what will be an an enormous factor in the chances of a win in Toronto.
The Mind of Jake Shields:
The UFC, in my opinion, has helped to stack the deck for an already monstrous task. Jake has to go in there and try to take on what might actually be the greatest all-around athlete to ever step into the Octagon.
Georges St. Pierre has essentially smothered the vast majority of the opponents he has faced. In some circles (not here), a movement has come out calling him “safe” and “boring”, due to a style that not only beats his rivals, but exhausts them, and renders their strengths to be a non-factor. He has an all around game and approach that is accentuated by excellent nutrition, world class training, top notch sponsorship, better than Olympic athleticism, and all-world fighting skills.
On top of that, he has the home team advantage, with the vast majority of the 55,000 people specifically coming to witness him, and cheer him on.
Georges St. Pierre is simply put, one of, if not the best fighter on this planet, and an instant hall of fame inductee. He has run his own division and due to the UFC's weak-willed and Pay Per View ratings' slanted matchmaking system, which does not give previous opponents that lost in a landslide a rematch, he is basically out of people to fight and actually challenge him in his own weight class.
Josh Koschek, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Jon Fitch, BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, and Matt Serra have all been picked apart by St Pierre in his current run as champion, and he has won 30 consecutive rounds on the judges' cards.
Like, sheesh. The guy is amazing.
And someone has to convince Jake Shields that despite all of what I have listed, he is beatable, and that Shields specifically is the guy to beat him.
The UFC has done something very unique here. They have purchased a free agent opponent for Georges. They made the champion versus champion match that everyone has been clamoring for with rival, turned UFC owned Strikeforce, long before they ever purchased the organization and its roster. Can you imagine how uncomfortable Dana White must have been as Shields was struggling with Martin Kampmann, and actually in my opinion, gassed out during the fight? (I still believe he eeked out a win.)
You can bet that whoever is trying to get into the mind of Shields has also had to erase that. Make no mistake, Shields will not gas out in this fight. Jake Shields will show up ready physically to try to take on this monstrous task.
But the question remains for me, and it must remain somewhere in the mind of Jake Shields...
Can he win this fight?
Can he walk the aisle in front of a St. Pierre partisan crowd, in the backyard of the legend, and actually find a way to take him down?
His mindset is about the only way I can see it happening.
If I was the guy trying to train him in this regard, I would be tempted to resurrect a quote from Jimmy Johnson, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys:
"When you go up against an 800 pound gorilla, you don't hit him lightly...You give him everything you got!”
As I see it, the only way Shields wins this fight is if he shows up believing 100 percent that St. Pierre can be beat, and that St. Pierre will be beat that day.
The quote is significant, and is actually a mantra I personally live by. For me, it means that if you have to fight an unbeatable set of odds, you go walking right in there, throw down, and lay it all on the line. That is the only way. Bust an 800 pound gorilla in the mouth enough times, you may actually find yourself succeeding in giving him what seemed unlikely upon first glance. You may actually find out that he does not want to fight all that badly after all.
They need to convince him to go out there, and do whatever he can do, for an entire 25 minutes if need be, and not hold back. They need to convince him that he is fighting a man, and that the enormous amount of noise cheering against him really has no bearing on the outcome. They need Jake Shields ready to show up, prepared, calm, and ready to play the role of a true spoiler. Possibly what may be one of the biggest upsets of the last few years, and one for the history books.
Most of all, they have to make him believe that what seems impossible, is without a doubt a certainty, in the wrong favor from the odds.
The only certainties in Mixed Martial Arts are that there are no certainties in Mixed Martial Arts. While I think it is a remote possibility, I believe it is unlikely. I think that idea is shared by the vast majority of people out there.
However, St. Pierre has been soundly beaten before...
Muhammed Ali lost fights. Anderson Silva has lost fights. The best eventually lose if they are fighting quality opposition.
If you are in there, you take on the possibility that you can fall at any time, and in MMA, that can be in a lot of ways.
A flash knockout. A slick submission. An inability to continue. A decision. A bad stoppage.
There are variables here for you to consider before picking Shields to lose with zero doubt.
Convincing him he can do it despite the odds may be the biggest challenge of all.
Thanks for the read. Enjoy the fights.