Well, this came out of left field.

Jake Shields was good enough to defeat Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit, Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler, and Demian Maia, just to name a few. But he wasn't good enough to stay employed with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world's preeminent mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.

Sounds weird when you say it out loud.

Fresh off his loss to Hector Lombard at last month's UFC 171 event in Dallas -- his first in nearly three years -- UFC officials informed the former Strikeforce middleweight champion and ex-EliteXC welterweight kingpin that his services were no longer required.

His manager, Lex McMahon, issued a statement to MMA Fighting:

"Jake Shields has been released by the UFC. Jake appreciates the opportunities provided by the UFC and thanks Dana White and Lorenzo Fertita. Jake is an elite athlete who is one of the best welterweight fighters in the world with a long history of winning at a championship level. Jake and our team are already exploring options. I'm confident that Jake will have a new promotion to call home very soon. Jake thanks his fans for their support and looks forward to competing for them again soon."

Shields was brought over in the days leading up to the demise of Strikeforce, where he was expected to become a major player in the promotion's 170-pound division. After a shaky win over Martin Kampmann at UFC 121, Shields (29-7) lost a unanimous decision to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129.

A crushing knockout loss to Jake Ellenberger just days after the death of his father would soon follow.

Unfazed, the Cesar Gracie-product went undefeated in his next four fights, but carries an asterisk next to that run after failing his UFC 150 drug test for an unnamed "prohibited substance." Shields was expected to get back into the title hunt with a win over Lombard last month in "The Lone Star State," but was handily defeated.

Then released without prejudice.

At 35 years old, there may not be enough time to work his way back to the big show; however, he still carries a big enough name -- and skill set -- to make some noise on the regional and international circuit. Perhaps a Ben Askren fight after "Funky" gets done with this?

Let's hear some feedback on this one Maniacs. Where do you want to see Shields fight next?

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