Sherk: "No substitute for hard work!"
Interview by David L. Hudson, Jr.
Photo by Chris Cozzone
Sean Sherk is a former UFC world champion who has posted more than 30 wins in his professional mixed martial arts career. He’s defeated talented fighters such as Kenny Florian, Nick Diaz, Benji Radach, and Karo Parisyan (twice). His only losses are to future Hall-of-Famers Matt Hughes, Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn, and he’s been stopped only once in a career that began a decade ago. His work ethic is second to none and his powerful physique led to the nickname “the Muscle Shark.”
Sherk suffered adversity after testing positive for steroids following a title-defense victory over Hermes Franca (who also tested positive). He suffered a suspension and lost his UFC world lightweight championship due to allegations he still vigorously denies. Sherk faced Penn at UFC 84 last year in an attempt to regain his title. He showed great courage but was stopped in the third round. Lesser men would have crumbled at such adversities. But, Sherk rebounded with a Fight-of-the-Night win over the dangerous Tyson Griffin.
Sherk recently took the time to speak with Fightnews about his upcoming bout on the UFC 98 card against Frank Edgar, his career and other topics.
One thing that people mention when they talk about you is your incredible work ethic. Where did that come from?
It came from a lot of different places. My grandparents, who were a real positive influence on me, were really hard workers and I learned from them. I can remember my grandfather getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to do his farming. And my grandmother was tougher than hell. I also grew up wrestling in the Midwest and acquired those Midwestern values in a sport that rewards hard work.
What challenges does your upcoming opponent Frank Edgar present?
He’s real tough and has beaten really good opposition. He has a real strong wrestling background. We’re both aggressive and have great cardio so it should be quite a battle.
Could it be a Fight-of-the-Night type fight like your last bout against Tyson Griffin?
I think so. I mean stylistically we’re both real aggressive and like to take control in the cage.
In your last performance you rebounded well from the defeat to B.J. Penn. How were you able to rebound so effectively?
Getting beat is never fun that’s for sure, particularly since I put everything I’ve got into my fights. But, for me I’ve always been able to come back strong after my losses. I learn more from my losses than my wins.
What specifically did you learn from the loss to Penn?
I learned to go back to basics. I got a boxing coach and have worked more on my jiu-jitsu skills and techniques. I felt good in the Penn fight but felt I was just a little off.
Would you like a chance to avenge that defeat?
Absolutely, I would love another shot at him. First, I’d like to avenge the defeat but also I’d like to get my belt back.
The steroid controversy in California – was that the most difficult time you’ve had in this sport?
That was a very difficult time – being accused of something I didn’t do. The hearing was so one-sided, it was terrible. I felt shunned to an extent and it was really hard. I’ll never fight again in the state of California. It was a very trying time. It wasn’t fun.
How did it feel in the Griffin fight to come back and win back many fans in the arena and elsewhere?
It definitely felt great to earn back the fans’ respect. The loss to Penn was a hard pill to swallow, particularly when I heard some booing. But, I’ve just been working hard, I’ve passed like four drug tests and doing the best I can to be the best mixed martial artist.
You are now 35 years old. How much longer will you fight professionally?
I don’t have a specific timetable. For me, age is nothing but a number. I live for what I do and that is compete in mixed martial arts. As long as I can keep fighting on this high level and not lose fights that I shouldn’t, I will keep fighting.
We’ve spoken of the low point with the steroid allegations, what was the high point in your career?
I would say winning the UFC lightweight championship. I’ve been fighting professionally for about ten years and it has been a roller-coaster ride. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
If you win the belt back for the second time, do you think that would rate as high as winning it the first time?
I think winning it the second time would be even better than the first time because of what all I have had to go through.
What life mantra do you live by or follow?
There is no substitute for hard work. If you put the time in on something, eventually you will get results.
Back to your upcoming bout, do you have a prediction?
I don’t have a prediction other than I expect to win this fight. If he makes a mistake, I hope to capitalize on it and finish him. I would like to get in and out of there as fast as possible.
Any message for your fans?
I want to thank all the loyal fans who have supported me through thick and thin. I would also like to thank all my sponsors.