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Q&A:

Jake Shields talks vegetarianism, Demian Maia and Nick Diaz

Though not in his ideal locale, Shields has big plans for Wednesday night’s bout

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jake Shields celebrates his win over Ed Herman in their middleweight bout during UFC 150 in Denver, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012.

UFC Fight Night 29 card

  • Welterweight bout: Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields
  • Welterweight bout: Erick Silva vs. Dong Hyun Kim
  • Light heavyweight bout: Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill
  • Light heavyweight bout: Fabio Maldonado vs. Joey Beltran
  • Welterweight bout: Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Pierce
  • Bantamweight bout: Raphael Assuncao vs. T.J. Dillashaw
  • Welterweight bout: Ildemar Alcantara vs. Igor Araujo
  • Welterweight bout: Yan Cabral vs. Dan Mitchell
  • Flyweight bout: Iliarde Santos vs. Chris Cariaso
  • Lightweight bout: Allen Patrick vs. Garret Whiteley
  • Airing on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 3 p.m.

Jake Shields felt like celebrating, he was so excited when matched against Demian Maia for Wednesday night’s UFC Fight Night 29 card in Barueri, Brazil.

Not only is Maia ranked as the No. 4 welterweight in the world, but he fights with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu style that Shields believes will make for a thrilling bout. Shields could use a crowd-pleaser after his last fight, a split-decision win over Tyron Woodley at UFC 161, was widely panned as a lackluster performance.

“I thought it was unfair that I got the criticism when he was the one I felt like was being the defensive fighter,” Shields said. “I was definitely pushing the pace. I was attacking the whole time and he was just walking back, not wanting to engage.”

Nonetheless, the former top contender picked up an important victory in his first fight back in the 170-pound division. He’s comfortable at the lower weight class and thinking about another run at the title long held by Georges St. Pierre in part because of tweaks made to his lifelong vegetarian diet.

Read below to find out what Shields has to say about that and much more headed into UFC Fight Night 29.

As a 15-year professional who’s competed all around the world, it’s kind of surprising this is your first fight in Brazil. What do you think about finally fighting there?

I trained down there three or four times, but I can’t say I’m excited about fighting in Brazil. It’s one of those places that’s fun to visit, but you don’t really want to fight there because, A) it’s tough dealing with the hostile crowd and environment, and B) it’s kind of a pain getting down there with the time change and everything.

What about the weight cut? A lot of fighters say that’s more difficult in foreign countries.

It normally could be but I really have my weight in check. It shouldn’t be too bad. If I was really big, then it would be tough. But I’m only 14 pounds over 10 days out so it should be a nice, easy cut.

How much has the vegetarian lifestyle helped with that and your career in general?

It’s made me feel great. I still feel young, totally healthy. I’ve fought in the sport for many years and I feel like it’s something that’s helped me tremendously. But I’ve never eaten meat, so I can’t compare the two and say, ‘This is what it does better.’ But all the people I know who have gone from eating meat to not eating meat say they feel much better.

Have you helped other fighters with that transformation?

Guys I train with are always asking me about switching over, so I try. I helped Nick and Nate Diaz a little bit, but they pretty much switched over on their own years ago. Nick is mostly vegan now and Nate copied him as well. It was cool seeing guys like that switch over. Nick read a lot about his diet and decided he wanted to eat that way. Now, he’s actually a lot more strict on the diet than I am.

Did you work with the Diaz brothers any before this fight?

Not as much as I would have liked with them down in Stockton, but I trained with them a little bit. Both Nick and Nate are great as training partners, as Southpaws, for Demian Maia.

So, despite his retirement, Nick Diaz is still sharp and valuable to work with?

Yeah, I still train with him a little bit before every fight. He’s still in the gym a lot. He’s not there every day training like crazy, but he’s still in great shape. He’s always riding his bike. He’s never out of shape.

Do you think we’ll see him fight again?

I can’t answer that for sure, yes or no, because he’s never told me. But I feel like he will. He’s so young and talented, still in such great shape. I think he’ll get that want and come back to the sport. He just needs a break sometimes.

How much did you watch of Demian Maia’s fights to get ready?

I watched a lot of his fights and it reinforced that he’s a guy I highly respect. He’s one of the few guys who takes his jiu-jitsu and crosses it over into MMA. I don’t know him well but he seems like a good guy outside of the ring, so it’s hard not to respect that. But when I get in the cage, I don’t plan on respecting him at all.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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