Jake Shields' manager Lex McMahon appeared on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour, and discussed his fighter's release by the UFC after a single loss, to Hector Lombard. Shields, 35, had previously beaten Yoshihiro Akiyama by unanimous decision, and Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley by split decision. Shields also had a win over Ed Herman changed to a no contest, following his positive test for a prohibited substance.
The release was doubtless influenced in part by the high contract Shields was fighting under. If he gets a win or two in for example the World Series of Fighting, he could well me back, presumably with a smaller contract.
The cut was also part of a larger trend in the UFC, in which for example Yushin Okami and Jon Fitch were released and Ben Askren was passed over, due to a fighting style not friendly to asses in seats. Continued employment with the world's leading MMA organization now also relies on an exciting fighting style, in addition to wins and losses.
And as well, the UFC may be looking to promote young, new talent, rather than athletes like Shields who have been fighting since the late 90s.
"I think, obviously, Jake was disappointed," said McMahon as transcribed by Shaun Al-Shatti for MMAFighting. "He is a guy who for many years has been a champion, fought on a championship level, been top ranked. He was on a four-fight win streak prior to the Lombard loss, so I think it was something that took him by surprise, but he's prepared to move forward."
"To lose one fight and then all of a sudden be out of a job was something that I believe was surprising and not contemplated. To be honest, we were really positioned and looking for Jake as a potential title contender, given the mix of the landscape after Georges retired. Jake had beaten pretty much everybody that was out there. He beat Condit, he beat Woodley, he beat Maia. So really, there wasn't too many other options. With the right performance, I think (he could've been fighting for the title).
"It just shows you the nature of this sport. The right performance, he potentially fights for the title. The wrong performance, he's looking for a new job."
"Listen, the UFC, it's their organization. They have the liberty to do with it what they will," McMahon said. "Certainly it's surprising, but at the end of the day everybody knows the type of fights that they like to see. Jake grinds out wins, but the bottom line is that he wins, and he wins at a very high level. He beats some of the best guys out there.
"I certainly fought for Jake. Unfortunately, Dana and Lorenzo and Joe Silva had made up their minds, and at the end of the day it's their company and they do what they decide to do."
Suitors for Shields' talents include ONE FC which has the possibility of a fight with Askren, and Titan FC, which offered equity.