He's anything but beefy. Jake Shields is the clean cut, handsome, Mixed Martial Arts champ that has more buzz floating around him than a beehive. Raised in the mountains of northern California, home-schooled, and brought up vegetarian since birth, Jake is rocking both the MMA world and the vegetarian community. He is the Elite XC Welterweight Champion, and he holds one of only three Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belts ever earned. Jake voted Yes on Prop 2 in California, and he's just opened his own gym in Berkley, where he teaches jiu jitsu and plans on taking his career all the way to the top. Like Mac Danzig and the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields is yet another pro fighter responding to the cliché myth that vegetarians are weak with a swift kick to the head.
I got a chance to catch up with Jake recently about fighting, food, and teaching. Here is the interview:
Discerning Brute: Why do you fight? Jake Shields: I've always loved to compete and MMA is competition to the max.
DB: There are so many myths about being vegetarian like you can't get enough protein or you will be sick and weak. How would you respond to this as an athlete? JS: Well I'm a life-long vegetarian and the diet obviously works. I also have two brothers that are strong and healthy. But you do have to have a good balanced diet and eat healthy foods. There's plenty of ways to get protein other than eating meat.
DB: What was it like growing up veg? JS: Never really felt any different. I never thought anything about it and nobody ever bothered me about it.
DB: What's been your greatest accomplishment as an athlete? JS: A lot of different things come to mind in grappling and MMA. But winning the RUMBLE ON THE ROCK TOURNAMENT was probably one of the best. It was an eight man tournament with 5 top ten fighters, Anderson Silva, Frank Trigg, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Dave Menne & Renato Verissimo. I fought two really tough fights in one night against Yushim Okami and Carlos Condit in the finals.
DB: What kind of slack have you taken from teammates or opponents about your veg diet? Was your lifestyle ever an issue with your trainers or coaches? JS: I haven't really ever had any problem with anyone about my diet. The only problem is sometimes it's hard to find good food when I'm traveling.
DB: What advice would you give anyone who wants to start training in martial arts? JS: Find a good school and go for it. Train hard.
DB: What other veg fighters have you met or do you know. Is there a camaraderie there? JS: There's actually a number of them. Nick and Nate Diaz are practically vegetarian. There's a lot of camaraderie among all the fighters, veggie or not.
DB: Would you consider fighting Mac Danzing in a VeggieBattle? That would be fun! Ya, that'd be great--then I'd be King of the Vegie Fighters! But he'd have to come up, I'm not going down in weight.
DB: What's next in your plans. Do you have an ultimate goal? A retirement plan? JS: I just want to fight the best and be the best. I really love fighting. I won't be retiring until I don't love it anymore. I also like to teach. I've been teaching Gracie jiu jitsu and MMA since 2002 and just opened my own gym in Berkley a couple of weeks ago.
DB:Complete the sentence: In a perfect world... JS: ...I'll be the UFC Champion next year.
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DB's Etiquette Recommendation: There are tons of resources for vegan MMA Gear. Both Vitamins & Minerals of Brazil, and Everlast make decent non-leather MMA gloves. In addition, Combat Sport International, has 3 styles of vegan gloves, and UFC has several vegan gloves.