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Thursday, October 27, 2011
With father's roles filled, Shields eyes return

By Franklin McNeil

The past few months have been very difficult for Jake Shields.

His father, Jack Shields, passed away in August and a couple of weeks later he lost for the second time in a row. Jake Ellenberger needed less than a minute to stop him during their Sept. 17 bout.

Shields had never experienced a two-fight skid in his pro mixed martial arts career and he intends to end the streak in his next bout. If he has his way, that will likely happen in February 2012. And when Shields steps back in the Octagon, he'll definitely have a point to prove.

“I’ve started to train hard again this week,” Shields told ESPN.com. “And I look to come back better than I’ve ever been.

“I want to show that I am a much better fighter than I’ve shown in UFC. I really want to prove that in my next fight. It doesn’t matter who I fight. I will fight anybody they want me to fight.”

The emotional pains of losing his father still linger, but Shields is improving each day. Support from family and friends have been extremely helpful.

But Jack Shields was more than a father; he was a close friend, a trainer and manager. If Jake Shields is to ever achieve his goal of becoming UFC welterweight champion, someone needed to step and fill part of the void created when his father passed away.

While his dad played a key role in training camp, the rest of Shields’ team remains intact. Cesar Gracie continues to oversee prefight preparation and develop game plans. Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and the Diaz brothers -- Nate and Nick -- are still his key training partners.

Training was never a concern for Shields (26-6-1); that part of his fighting career was already in good hands. It’s the other area his father oversaw, management, which had him up at nights.

It might not seem like a big deal to those on the outside, but these days, professional fighters are very careful when it comes to selecting a manager. Shields knew there was no one he could trust like his father, but after a month of searching, he decided to put his career in the hands of Glenn Robinson and Authentic Sports Management.

“It feels like a trusting, good family environment here,” Shields said. “And they cover all aspects of management.

“No one can replace my dad, that’s a bond you can only have with your dad. But I wanted someone who feels like family, and that’s how it feels with Glenn.”