"I pretty much figured within a few minutes I was going to move forward and fight, so of course it's been little tough since then," he said. "But I don't think it's really affected my training. When it's been time to focus and train, I've been able to pull it together and got some of the best workouts and sparring sessions ever in the last couple of weeks."
Jake Shields lost his father Jack less than a month before his headlining fight with Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25.
Jack was as close as any father to Jake and more than just an overseer of his son's career. He was an integral, daily component. A guiding, supportive and attentive hand in his son's career.
Many asked: can Shields still take his fight with Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25 so soon after losing his father, friend and mentor?
The answer was yes, a demonstration of grit, professionalism and immeasurable athletic courage.
While Shields' grief must be immesurable, his tragedy unfortunately falls in line with other athletes, who've competed in close proximity to the death of their fathers. Whether as a coping mechanism for themselves or glorification of their fathers, athletes of all ages and stature use athletics to temporarily heal themselves.
Brett Favre's father died just two days before his Green Bay Packers were set to play the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. Favre put on one of the best performances of his career passing for 399 yards and four touchdowns.
Michael Jordan's path through athletics after the death of his father took a much more circuitous route. Michael announced his retirement from basketball five months later and entered the minor leagues. It's been suggested Jordan's entire baseball sojourn was related to his father's original wish his son play in the major leagues.
It's a tribute to the athlete and the bond they shared with their fathers that they push through. Sport is often where fathers and sons forge their relationship, where sons learn about or define themselves. Continuing on is a recognition of their obligation to themselves, their teammates and their lost parent.
What defines Shields more than this potential win or loss is his participation: through pain, anguish and the absence of his father's gravity. Shields' success is the act of getting up and getting out there. He's playing, rain or shine; long odds or short; with his father and without.
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