Jake Shields (29-7-1) will get a top-level welcome to his new promotion, as his WSOF debut will come against Jon Fitch (25-6-1).
MMAjunkie today learned from sources close to the fighters that both Fitch and Shields have verbally agreed to the contest and that bout agreements are expected to be finalized shortly. WSOF President Ray Sefo subsequently confirmed the plans.
Fitch vs. Shields will serve as the co-main event of WSOF 11, which takes place July and may potentially air on NBC. For now, a location and broadcast platform for the card have yet to be announced. WSOF lightweight champ Justin Gaethje meets Nick Newell in the headliner.
Shields signed with the Las Vegas-based WSOF after an eight-fight stint with the UFC. Officially, Shields was 3-1 in his final four fights for the promotion, earning wins over Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley and Yoshihiro Akiyama but dropping a decision to Hector Lombard in March.
The 35-year-old Shields was regarded as one of the world’s best welterweights outside of the UFC in 2007 when he signed with EliteXC and went on to win that promotion’s 170-pound title with a submission of Nick Thompson in just 63 seconds in 2008. He defended that belt with a submission of Paul Daley before the promotion shuttered its doors.
Shields moved up to middleweight when he signed with Strikeforce in 2009 and submitted Robbie Lawler. Then he beat Jason Miller to win the vacant 185-pound belt in November 2009. Against Dan Henderson, he had a stiff test in his first title defense. But after a rough first round, he went on to dominate the former PRIDE champion for a unanimous decision in what would be his final fight for the promotion.
He now moves to his new home at WSOF.
Meanwhile, Fitch fights for the third time under the WSOF banner. An 18-time UFC veteran, Fitch debuted for the promotion in June 2013 with a surprising technical submission loss to Josh Burkman in a dramatic bout that was considered one of the year’s top submission. The longtime American Kickboxing Academy product bounced back with a hard-fought October win over Marcelo Alfaya and now fights for the first time in 2014.
Both Fitch and Shields currently reside as honorable mentions in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings.