Jake Shields knows what he's facing when he steps into the ring against Ultimate Fighting Championship legend Georges St-Pierre in front of 55,000 partisan fans Saturday at Toronto's Rogers Centre.
"(St-Pierre) is a phenomenal fighter, but he hasn't had anyone create a lot of pressure on him," Shields said before the pre-fight news conference on Wednesday. "I plan on bringing the fight."
Shields is one of three fighters from Pleasant Hill's Gracie Sports Center who have traveled to Canada to take part in UFC 129. With the maximum of 55,000 tickets already sold, it will be the largest crowd ever to attend a UFC fight.
Shields is joined in Canada by training partners Nate Diaz and Daniel Roberts, both of whom also train under Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cesar Gracie, a member of the famed family known around the world for its Jiu-Jitsu academies.
But it is Shields, the welterweight from the small town of Mountain Ranch in Calaveras County, who finds his name on the marquee across from St-Pierre, one of the best-known names in mixed martial arts.
A five-time international champion, Shields is a known commodity to knowledgeable mixed martial arts fans. He left Strikeforce for the UFC last summer, and still is making his name recognizable in his new organization.
What Shields will have working for him is the preparation he's taken from weeks of training with the star-studded roster that calls Gracie's Pleasant Hill gym home. Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz and lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez both train with Shields in addition to Nate Diaz and Roberts.
"Because we're all there together, we've gotten better and better," Shields said. "We've become a family."
Added Roberts: "Normally when one person has a fight, we push them but not as hard (as this time). ... It's brought some real intensity to our training camp."
Roberts will be the first of the three Pleasant Hill-based fighters to step into the octagon, taking on Claude Patrick. Diaz will fight later in the card, taking on Rory MacDonald.
"He seems like a tough guy," Diaz said in a release put out by the UFC. "He trains with a good bunch of fighters, but the guys I train with are better, so I'm gonna put it on him."
Roberts said that since he's the first of the three to fight, he's looking forward to watching his training partners. Shields fights last, and said he'll have to fight the temptation to watch the earlier fights, saying he'll "probably try to keep the TV off."