He has trained extensively with Fairtex SF and Cesar Gracie, and is a member of the "Skrap Pack" which includes fellow Cesar Gracie students Dave Terrell, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. After his loss to Akira Kikuchi he won 15 consecutive fights over six years, until his loss to Georges St-Pierre. He describes his style as American Jiu-jitsu.
Shields was raised near Mountain Ranch, California in the Sierra Nevada. He was home schooled up to junior high. He and his two older brothers grew up at the end of a dirt road on the rim of the Jesus Maria Canyon. Their nearest friends were a 45-minute hike down one side of the canyon and up the other. Their activities included mountain biking, wild caving, snowboarding, clearing brush, bucking firewood, climbing mountains, exploring the high country, and wrestling.
Shields began amateur wrestling at age nine. He has competed in over 601 folk, freestyle, and submission wrestling matches. Shields was a four-year varsity wrestler and state qualifier at Calaveras High School, finished 2nd place at the Amateur Athletic Union National Freestyle Championships, qualified for U.S.A./ FILA Nationals & World Team Trials in both the junior & university men's divisions. He is also a two time junior college All American wrestler from Cuesta College, placing 4th in the California JC state tournament in the 177 lb weight class in 1997 and 3rd in the 197 lb weight class a year later. In September 1999, Shields began his MMA training by joining Chuck Liddell's SLO Kickboxing Academy. Within a few weeks he fought his first fight, filling in for an injured teammate at 185 lbs. Shields fought five fights at 185 lbs "for fun, to stay in shape and learn some self defense". In 2001, Shields decided he wanted to make a career of mixed martial arts and began fighting at his natural weight of 170 lbs (77 kg).
In the summer of 2001, Shields received a wrestling scholarship to San Francisco State University. At that time he began training with the Cesar Gracie Fight Team, resulting in a dramatic improvement of the jiu jitsu variety. He is a three time Grapplers Quest Advance Champion, Pan American Championships Jiu Jitsu Champion, Pan Am Open Advance Submission Champion, Gracie Open Superfight Champion and finished 3rd place at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in 2005. His victory at the Pan American Championships (which requires wearing a uniform) as a purple belt is notable because Jake Shields claims he has trained "about four hours with the gi in [his] life," and the Pan Americans is one of the largest Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions in the world. He continued to improve on the kickboxing skills he picked up with Chuck Liddell, by cross-training with the professional Muay Thai kickboxing team at the Fairtex combat Academy, training with Muay Thai Champions Jongsanan Fairtex and Alex Gong. He was awarded the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu by Cesar Gracie in February 2007.
Shields was the head instructor of BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) and MMA at the Fairtex-Gracie affiliate in San Francisco from March 2002 until April 2008.
Shields has developed a style of fighting called "American Jiu-Jitsu" which he has tattooed on his forearm. Shields' American Jiu-Jitsu is a no-gi style of grappling for MMA and self-defense is a complete combat art that combines the relaxed and ready position and submission techniques of Brazilian jiu-jitsu with the explosive takedowns, throws and transitions of wrestling. Shields has an iron chin which was best displayed in his fight with Dan Henderson where he took numerous big shots from Hendo in the 1st round and came back to win the next 4 rounds and get a unanimous decision victory.
Shields is best known for his 15-fight winning streak, finishing eight of his eleven opponents before being defeated by UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in a hard fought five round battle at UFC 129. Shields has captured the Shooto World Mixed Martial Arts Championship and the Rumble on the Rock World Championship. He submitted Nick Thompson via guillotine choke in a bout for the Elite XC Welterweight Championship.
At Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields he fought EliteXC's last middleweight champion and former two-time ICON Sport middleweight champion at a catchweight of 182 pounds (83 kg). Lawler took the center of the cage and looked comfortable on his feet. Robbie Lawler said in the post fight interview, "His striking was good. He threw a lot of kicks. He worked. He threw hands and wasn't shying away from standup, that's for sure." Two minutes into the first round, Shields pounced and secured a guillotine choke to finish his opponent via submission at 2:02 of the first round.
At Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers he fought Jason 'Mayhem' Miller for the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight Championship after Cung Le stepped down as champion to pursue his acting career. Shields defeated Miller via unanimous decision (49–46, 49–46, 48–47).
Shields successfully defended his title, defeating former Pride World Welterweight Champion Dan Henderson via unanimous decision on April 17, 2010, at Strikeforce: Nashville.
Shields was spotted and shown on camera next to UFC President Dana White at the WEC 48 PPV. With Dana White saying, "He's mine!" and his arm around Shields, this fueled rumors of Shields signing with the UFC. Jake Shields stated in an interview that it was tough for Strikeforce to provide him with exciting fights and this would be a key aspect in his decision to stay or leave. Dana White also stated in this interview he would be willing to pay huge sums to strip away one of Strikeforce's champions. This has further fueled speculation that Shields would leave Strikeforce for the UFC.
On June 30, Strikeforce released Shields from the organization during his contract renegotiation period. Shields then entered into talks with the UFC, with his manager and father Jack Shields stating that his son is eager to fight against top UFC fighters, such as Anderson Silva. In July 2010, it was reported that Shields was close to signing a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to compete in the promotion's Welterweight division.
Shields made his UFC debut against Martin Kampmann on October 23, 2010, at UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez. Prior to Shields's UFC debut, Dana White stated that Shields is most likely next for a shot at the UFC Welterweight Championship between the winner of Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck if he defeats Kampmann. After Shields defeated Kampmann via split decision, White later confirmed that Shields would receive a title shot against the winner of the Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck fight at UFC 124.
Georges St-Pierre won his UFC 124 bout against Josh Koscheck. Shields fought St-Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Championship on April 30, 2011, at UFC 129 in Toronto. Shields lost via unanimous decision (50–45, 48–47, 48–47). This was Shields's first loss in over 6 years.
Shields faced Jake Ellenberger on September 17, 2011 at UFC Fight Night 25, losing via first round TKO. This was the first time Shields has been finished in over ten years.
Shields faced Yoshihiro Akiyama on February 26, 2012 at UFC 144, winning via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Shields returned to the middleweight division and faced Ed Herman on August 11, 2012 at UFC 150. He won the bout via unanimous decision. However, on October 12, 2012, it was announced that Jake Shields had failed his drug test at UFC 150 and he was subsequently fined and suspended. The result of the fight was overturned to a No Contest. In January 2015 Shields said the failed test was due to a banned diuretic.
Shields faced Tyron Woodley in a welterweight bout on June 15, 2013 at UFC 161. The bout was contested on the feet for nearly its entirety in a largely uneventful fight where neither fighter was able to deliver any significant offense. Shields defeated Woodley via split decision.
Shields next faced Demian Maia on October 9, 2013 at UFC Fight Night 29. As expected, the contest between the two decorated jiu jitsu practitioners took place mostly on the ground, and Shields won a close split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).
Shields fought Hector Lombard on March 15, 2014 at UFC 171. Shields lost the fight via unanimous decision.
On April 6, 2014, it was announced that Shields was released from the promotion.
After his release from the UFC, the outspoken and often candid president of the organization, Dana White, had this to say about Shields:
"We look at everything. Everything. Money has something to do with it. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. But that wasn't the only reason or the main reason. It was a part of the piece of the puzzle as we were doing our evaluation of him. Mixed martial arts is a young man's game. I like Jake Shields a lot. But let's be honest here: Where was he going in this [welterweight] division of animals we have? He's on the downswing, and he's never going to be the guy. His stand-up never improved. He hasn't really shown anything in his last couple of fights to make you go, 'Holy [expletive].' Right now, at this point, he's just another guy."
In April 2014, Shields signed a multi-fight deal with the World Series of Fighting. Shields was expected to compete at WSOF 11 on July 5, 2014 against Jon Fitch. However, Shields was forced out of the bout due to a shoulder injury.
Shields made his debut for World Series of Fighting at WSOF 14 on October 11, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada against WSOF Canadian Welterweight Champion Ryan Ford. He won the fight via submission in the first round.
In his second fight for the promotion, Shields faced Brian Foster in the main event at WSOF 17 on January 17, 2015. He again won the fight via submission in the first round.
Shields faced Rousimar Palhares on August 1, 2015 at WSOF 22. He lost the fight by submission due to a kimura, marking his first loss by submission. This wasn't without controversy as Palhares repeatedly eye gouged Shields after several warnings from the ref, and again held the submission well after Jake tapped, and Shields punched Palhares in the face after the fight was over. Shields also followed with a kick which the referee blocked. Both Shields and Palhares were temporarily suspended by the NSAC after the fight.
Shields was lined up to face Jon Fitch for the vacant WSOF welterweight championship at WSOF 30 on April 1, 2016. Though they have never competed together in an MMA contest, Shields holds a victory over Fitch in a submission grappling match. However, the match was later cancelled due to contract issues between Shields and the company.
On September 13, 2016, it was announced that Shields would challenge for the WSOF Welterweight Championship against Jon Fitch on November 12, 2016 at WSOF 34. On October 17, 2016, it was announced that the fight was then rescheduled to take place on December 31, 2016 in the co-main event. Shields lost the fight by unanimous decision.
On November 22, 2014, Shields fought Roberto Satoshi in a grappling match in Metamoris V. The fight ended in a draw.
Shields has a daughter Maddie (born December 2000) and is a single father. He is a lifelong vegetarian. He appeared in both print and video ads for PETA, touting his vegetarian lifestyle.
On August 29, 2011, Shields' father and manager Jack Shields died at the age of 67.
Jake Shields stars in and co-produced Fight Life, an award-winning documentary on the sport of MMA, the film is directed by James Z. Feng and released in 2013. Shields appeared in three episodes of Bully Beatdown on MTV and MTV2 on April 12, 2009, a different episode on September 10, and again on an mtv.com exclusive episode. Shields also served as a grappling coach for Chuck Liddell on The Ultimate Fighter 11, and appeared on the channel Animal Planet for episodes of "Wild Recon" and "Venom in Vegas".USA Wrestling
FILA Junior World Team Trials Qualifier
FILA University World Team Trials Qualifier
Amateur Athletic Union
Freestyle Wrestling National Championship runner-up
California Community College Athletic Association
All-American (1997, 1998)
All-State Selection (1997, 1998)
Western State Conference All First Team Selection (1997, 1998)
Collegiate career record: 56–14 (1997–1998)
California Interscholastic Federation
CIF State Championship Qualifier (1997)
Mother Lode League Champion (1997)
Calaveras High School Wrestling Wall of Fame (1996–1997)
Calaveras High School Record for Most Near Falls in a Season (74)
Scholastic career record: 108–45 (1993–1997)
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship (One time)
One successful title defense
Elite Xtreme Combat
EliteXC Welterweight Championship (One time; first; last)
One successful title defense
Professional Shooto Japan
Shooto Welterweight Championship (One time)
Rumble on the Rock
Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Championship
Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Tournament Winner
Abu Dhabi Combat Club
2005 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships bronze medalist
International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation
2005 Pan American Championships gold medalist
International Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Federation
2007 Gracie Open Superfight champion
Grapplers Quest Advance champion (three times)