Georges St-Pierre’s return to MMA is a matter of days away. As the MMA world anxiously awaits GSP’s return and debut at middleweight, one man who’s already seen what the former UFC welterweight champ looks at 185-pounds is Professional Fighters League star Jake Shields.
The PFL contender has found a second home in New York, training with Renzo Gracie and John Danaher. It’s a move predicated by the need for change. Shields has been involved in combat sports for well over 15 years. And while he’s become one of the top 170-pound fighters of all time, the American jiu-jitsu fighter is hoping the move to NY will teach an old dog some new tricks.
“I’ve loved New York City and wanted to move out here at some point,” Shields told PFL.com. “Of course I have a great team back home but I wanted to switch up my training. I love training with John Danaher and there’s a bunch of good boxers and wrestlers in New York. There’s just a good variety of guys to work with out here.”
Although working with the famed “Danaher Death Squad” and the team at Renzo’s certainly has its benefits, Shields maintains that he’ll always be a Cali guy. That includes maintaining ties with his fellow “Scrap Pack” members.
“That’s my team for life,” Shields said. “I’m getting in some work at Renzo’s but those guys will always be my team.”
Shields joins a growing number of fighters who’ve travelled to the Northeast to get some work in. At any given point during a training session, the mats at Renzo’s academy feature a bevy of elite talent that includes everything from heralded prospects to former UFC champions. It’s a key component of what makes Renzo’s team one of the best focal points for MMA fighters and grapplers alike.
“I think NY is one of the centers in the U.S. and John is such a high level coach for jiu-jitsu and MMA,” Shields said. “He has quite a track record when it comes to training guys. He’s helped George, Chris Weidman and sub-only guys like Gary Tonon and Gordan Ryan. People are seeing what he’s done and want to go out and work with him.”
It’s Shields’ work with Danaher which lead him to GSP’s training camp. The former UFC welterweight champion will be returning to the Octagon after entering a semi-retirement. However, instead of returning to the 170-pound division, St-Pierre will come back in the UFC’s middleweight division. There are of course a number of questions surrounding GSP’s return and debut at 185-pounds in the UFC. Despite the uncertainty, Shields feels confident the MMA world will be reminded of St-Pierre’s greatness at UFC 217.
“He looks great. He’s one of the greatest of all time,” Shields said. “He’s always been training. It would be one thing if he took four years off, but he’s always been in the gym. We’re at the point where it’s just putting the final touches on everything but he looks great.”
It’s one thing to come back after four years away from active competition. It’s quite another to come back and face the best fighter in an entirely different weight class. Bisping has been one of the longest tenured competitors in the UFC’s ranks but that hasn’t always translated to respect from his peers and fans. Always willing to play the part of villain, Bisping has done his best to quell any hope of a successful return for GSP.
“He has a tough fight ahead of him against someone who I think gets overlooked a lot and people underrate,” Shields said. “Although I think he’ll win, it’s by no means an easy fight.”
As fight night grows near, MMA fans will undoubtedly dissect this matchup as Bisping’s size and boxing against St-Pierre’s grappling game. While St-Pierre has shown that he’s undoubtedly one of the best wrestlers in MMA history, Shields believes the MMA world may be in for a surprise.
“It’s a fight that could go a lot of places,” Shields said. “George has really underrated standup, so he can definitely keep it standing with Bisping. People don’t realize George has really good boxing. He’s got Freddie Roach and good boxers to train with. He got Firas [Zahabi]. I can see him standing with him for a while before getting a takedown and passing into a submission.”
It’s certainly a fight that features a number of interesting angles to look at both in and out of the cage. If there’s one guy who could step away from competition and return to form, it’s certainly someone the caliber of GSP. However, MMA fans have quickly come to realize it’s a huge mistake to simply count out Bisping.