2011 was one of the hardest years of Jake Shields‘ personal and professional life.

After working tirelessly for several years to make it into the UFC’s welterweight division, Shields came up short in his bid to defeat Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129 last April.

Personal tragedy then struck Shields and his family later that year when his father, Jack, passed away. Just a couple of weeks after his father’s passing, Shields decided to continue on with his fight against Jake Ellenberger. Unfortunately he came out on the wrong end of a quick fight and knockout.

It was the first time Shields had been finished in over a decade.

“No, I don’t know, maybe it would have been better to pull out, but you never know how those things are going to go, and at the time I did what I had to do, and I did it. I can’t look back and wish I hadn’t have done it. Unfortunately, things didn’t go my way. I got caught with a knee, that was unfortunate,” Shields told MMAWeekly Radio about the loss to Ellenberger.

Following the loss, it was time for Shields to re-evaluate things and take a break from MMA. It was some much needed time off to reflect on everything he had just endured over the last few months. Plain and simple, he needed to recharge his batteries.

“That was a tough time for me between losing my dad and then that, I wasn’t feeling too great after that. I feel a lot better. I’m ready to bounce back and have a good year in 2012,” Shields stated.

“I feel like after that last fight I needed a few months. With losing my dad and then losing the fight, I was a little shook up and I just needed a few months away from the sport. After getting away for a couple of months, I was ready to fight again. Now I’m motivated. I’ve had a great camp. I feel the best I’ve ever felt right now. I’m just ready to go out there and get back on track.”

Going into his bout with St-Pierre last year, Shields had amassed a 15-fight winning streak, but the Bay Area competitor knows that in the world of MMA you’re only as good as your last fight.

So coming off of two losses in a row, Shields understands he needs to show up in Japan for UFC 144 and look like a brand new fighter with a dedication to success etched on his mind and body.

“I was riding such a good winning streak and then to come off two losses is never good. It makes you re-evaluate things, take a step back, and it’s one of those sports where you’re only as good as your last fight,” Shields stated. “You’re up big and you’re down big, and I’ve had a good career, but coming off two losses isn’t good. So I need to go out there and win in exciting fashion and put Akiyama away.”

Regardless of two losses in a row, call Jake Shields a “glass is half full” kind of guy.

There’s no reason to dwell on the past, and when he looks at the welterweight division in the UFC right now, he knows that it doesn’t take much to climb back up the ladder in rapid fashion.

“I feel like welterweight is really shook up right now for title contention,” said Shields. “It’s up for grabs for anyone really. With (Jon) Fitch losing, (Josh) Koscheck’s last fight not being the most spectacular; the title’s up for grabs right now.”

Another big factor that Shields is happy to look at is that he has a win over current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. When Shields first came to the UFC, Condit was all about facing the former Rumble on the Rock tournament winner. Shields defeated Condit in the tournament finals in Hawaii back in 2006, and the former Strikeforce champion also wouldn’t mind a little payback for his teammate and good friend Nick Diaz.

“He was calling me out last year, so I would love to fight him. He has the belt now. I mean GSP’s still the true champ, but if there’s time to get a fight in, I would love to be the guy to go out there and put on a great win and jump in there. Especially, like I said I beat him before, he just had that controversial win over my teammate. It’s someone I’d love to go back and get some payback for Nick,” Shields said.

The mission right now, however, is all about beating Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 in Japan. Shields is ready to get back on track. He’s more motivated than ever to get a win and remind everyone what kind of fighter he really is.

“You can hit these losing streaks and come back really strong. That’s the great thing about this sport, you come back and get a couple good wins and you’re right back on top again,” said Shields.

“I feel like I am still a top contender, I just lost a close fight to GSP and happened to get nailed with that knee against Ellenberger. I still feel like I’m a top guy. I just need to go out there and prove it again.”

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
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