A vicious flying knee at the end of third round of his title fight against B.J. Penn at UFC 84 caught Sean Sherk flush and as a result he was unable to answer the call for the fourth round.
It was a heartbreaking and disappointing loss for Sherk.
It would also be his first loss at 155 pounds in his career.
In the aftermath, he was immediately thrown back into the muddled UFC lightweight heap.
It took roughly five months for Sherk to regroup, refocus, and to prove to his critics he was still going to be a huge threat even at the age of 35.
In October 2008, he responded in the face of adversity with an impressive victory over up-and-coming Xtreme Couture product Tyson Griffin at UFC 90.
It was a giant leap forward for Sherk in his quest to once again wear the UFC lightweight belt before he hangs up his gloves, which will likely happen sooner rather than later.
Enter step number two in his quest to once again find the apex in the form of highly regarded lightweight Frankie Edgar.
On the verge of their much anticipated battle at UFC 98 on May 23, Sherk took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Continue reading the transcript to find out how training camp is going, which young UFC lightweight he thinks will be champion one day, the WAMMA champion who’s overrated, preferences on future fights, and what he thinks about having a figurine bearing his likeness.
It’s great to run you down and I appreciate the time. I want to start off by asking you about the Sean Sherk figurine.
After all, it’s not everyday someone gets to have a miniature replica of themselves made.
You partnered with a company called Round Five (Round5MMA.com) to make this happen. How did that come to fruition and what do you think of the final product?
That came about, basically I met Damon Lau (President and co-founder of Round Five) out in Canada. He was doing an appearance out there.
He brought the idea to me, which of course, I was pretty excited about the opportunity. I jumped on board with those guys. It was a real long process. I believe it took anywhere from nine months to a year before the finished product came out.
I was able to give a lot of my input throughout the whole process, which is pretty cool too, because it makes it more personal for me because of that reason. Yeah, it’s been great. I see those action figures everywhere I go.
I mean I do a lot of appearances throughout the year and there’s always people coming up to me wanting me to sign them, stuff like that, so I know people are out there buying them which is great.
It’s an honor for me to be apart of this company and to have this action figure made of myself.
I thought the attention to deal was pretty incredible. I mean it’s got even your tattoos and your web site on your shorts and everything.
Yeah, we tried to make it as personal as possible. Obviously, we want it to be as realistic as possible, so people kind of identify with you.
I put my web site on there, put my sponsors on there, my quotes, the box. Even all the way down to the pose. I got to pick the pose that I wanted my action figure to have.
Like I said before, it’s been an honor.
I’d like to get some of your thoughts on this past weekend’s action in Montreal (UFC 97).
As you’ve probably heard, Chuck Liddell had another disappointment.
He’s now lost four of his last five fights and is debating retirement at the age of 39.
How are you, at the age of 35, able to keep your skills at such a high level and what do you attribute that to?
I guess the big thing for me is that I’m still a student of the sport. I spend a lot of time working technique. I’ve got jiu-jitsu coaches, wrestling coaches, boxing coaches.
I’ve got some of the best training partners in the world. I fly guys out to train with me before I fight. Even during my down time, I’m always working on footwork, speed bag, heavy bag, double leg bag, drilling, technique, keeping my body mobile and agile.
I do a lot of plyometric stuff to keep my quick twitch.
I’m doing everything I possibly can to fight that age thing and so far I’ve been successful.
Not only that, but my diet's really good and I take really good care of myself. Obviously, the older you get, the smarter you gotta get, and I’ve been able to do that. I’m not ready to walk away from this sport anytime soon.
As long as I’m performing at a top level I’ll keep fighting, but as soon as I’m not able to perform at that top level, then I’ll have to walk away from the sport, which I don’t want to do. I’m doing everything I can to fight that.
I’m putting a lot of time in the gym and constantly trying to learn and get better and grow.
To the naked eye you even appear to be evolving as a fighter, especially your standup. You were comfortable standing with B.J. Penn.
You won Fight of the Night honors going toe-to-toe with Tyson Griffin. Your hands appear to be much better.
Is the perception reality, or has your standup been there all along, and you’ve simply chosen to go to other facets of your game to attain success in the past?
I’ve spent a lot of time working a lot of things with Nat (McIntyre). Boxing is something that I’ve really spent a lot of time on evolving and tweaking it.
I have good boxing. A lot of people don’t know I started boxing 14 years ago. Boxing and Muay Thai. I’ve been training this stuff a long time.
I always said I’ll pull it out when I need it and now with the sport evolving as it is there are so many great fighters out there you can’t be one dimensional anymore.
You gotta get out there and you gotta box. You gotta wrestle. You gotta be a submission threat. You gotta be a three-dimensional fighter now.
Basically, I mean, look at the Griffin fight. We were both having problems getting takedowns. I got a couple takedowns but I was having a hard time holding him down.
He came to play. I needed it and I pulled it out and there it was.
Speaking of Tyson Griffin, to me it looked like you guys were very similar to one another. Very similar styles. Both great wrestlers, have good boxing, good cardio.
Does Tyson remind you of yourself a little bit or are there any other fighters out there that maybe you see a little bit of yourself in?
Yeah, definitely. Tyson is young. He’s a crisp fighter. He trains with a great camp. You’re going to see big things out of that guy.
I think he’s only like 23 or 24 years old I believe. He’s still young and has a lot of room to grow still. I think he’ll be a champion someday definitely.
His style reminds me a lot of mine right now. Not when I was younger obviously. He’s evolved farther than I was at 24.
My style now, yeah, I mean he’s a great wrestler, a great boxer, and he has some submission skills too. Like I said, you’ll probably see some great things from him in the future.
He just had a tough fight I saw (against Rafael dos Anjos). I think it was on SPIKE. He’s definitely going to be one to watch.
Of course, you’re set to face Frankie Edgar at UFC 98 in about a month. How is training camp going and what is a typical week of training like for you?
Training camp is going real good. I’ve got some of the best of the best right here in Minnesota training with me. My coaches are helping me out a lot. Spending a lot of time working hard.
A typical day is … I train all day man. That’s all I do. This is my full time job. I’m at the gym 6–8 hours a day. I put a lot of time in.
I want to make sure that every avenue is covered. I know this fight is going to be a barnburner. It’s going to be a real fast faced real aggressive fight.
Two guys that are great wrestlers. Two guys that can box. I think this fight has Fight of the Night and potentially one of the best fights of the year written all over it.
Your teammate Brock Larson is also fighting at UFC 98 (against Chris Wilson). Have you guys been working in the gym together and helping get each other prepared and how is he looking?
Yeah we’re training together a couple times a week. Brock Larson is very underestimated I think.
He’s a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. A phenomenal wrestler. He hits like a brick shithouse. You don’t want to let that guy punch you.
He’s definitely underestimated right now, which is good, because he’ll be able to catch guys off guard and he’ll definitely make some waves in the UFC.
Switching back to your upcoming opponent Frankie Edgar. I know he’s a purple belt in jiu-jitsu now under Ricardo Almeida.
Does his jiu-jitsu game or any other of his strengths concern you at all?
Not really. I know he’s a great wrestler but so am I. I train with some phenomenal wrestlers right here in Minnesota. I got guys that wrestled on the world teams, guys that were ranked on the Olympic ladder.
I’ve got guys that were All-Americans. Some (Minnesota) Gophers. I’ve got the best wrestlers in the country right here I’m training with every single day, so I’m not worried about my wrestling ability.
Same thing with boxing. I’ve got some phenomenal boxers and phenomenal jiu-jitsu guys. For me you gotta respect everybody’s ability. I got a ton of respect for Frankie’s ability.
I watched the video and this guy’s tough as nails. I respect his ability but I don’t fear his ability. I’ve just got confidence in what I know I can do.
Is the mentality to shore up all areas of your game and be ready for anything he presents on fight night, or do you go in with a specific game plan geared towards him?
Obviously, you got a game plan going in there. You know what you want to do.
You know that you want to use that to try to exploit, but I walk into the cage ready for whatever happens, because game plans go out the window real fast.
How do you visualize the fight playing out?
I think it’s going to be like I said before. Potentially one of the best fights of the year. You got two guys who are real fast, explosive, with great cardio. We both wanna prove that we’re one of the best lightweights in the world.
I think you have two guys who are gonna come after each other and try to establish their game plan and try to prove their confidence. I really don’t know what’s gonna happen until we grab onto one another.
If you’re fortunate to come away with a victory over Edgar, can I go ahead and pencil you in against the Clay Guida and Diego Sanchez winner?
Well, potentially. It’s always up to the UFC. I think that, obviously, it’s a big if.
If I do beat Frankie the winner of the Guida and Sanchez fight could be a great matchup for me.
That or a potential title fight but again I don’t know when B.J. is going to plan on defending the belt after he fights Kenny.
He doesn’t seem like, it’s not really a big concern …. on his things to do list.We’ll see what happens.
First things first. We’ll concentrate on Frankie and worry what’s next after that.
You mentioned Kenny Florian. He’s going to have the opportunity to fight for the belt again at UFC 101. You were the guy that dominated Florian for five rounds at UFC 64.
Do you feel like Florian deserved the title shot against Penn without having to go through you first? Does that bother you on any level at all?
I would have liked to been able to have a shot at the “No. 1 contender.” I hold a win over Kenny and I’ve fought some pretty damn tough guys over the years.
I got beaten by B.J. which means I get thrown back into the contender mix, which means I have to work my way back up. Kenny, I believe he won five or six fights in a row.
We’ll give him his title shot and then we’ll see what happens and maybe I’ll get my shot after that.
Who do you like in that fight?
Obviously, I gotta go with B.J. in that one. B.J.’s a big 155 pounder being that he’s fought as high as heavyweight before. This guy is the hardest guy I’ve fought.
He has great takedown defense and he’s a world champion black belt in jiu-jitsu. I don’t think that’s a very good style for Kenny.
Finally, are there any other fighters who are not on the UFC roster that you would love to fight someday if it was possible?
Maybe an Eddie Alvarez or a Shinya Aoki or somebody like that?
Yeah, definitely. There were guys over in Japan that I would have liked to have a shot at. Aoki’s always been one of them.
No disrespect to Aoki. I think his ground game is phenomenal but I just thought he was overrated. He’s got no striking. He’s got no wrestling.
He’s got no striking and he wears pants and he butt scoots. That’s not going to last very long in the UFC.
I was hoping to get a crack at him at some point in time but he lost in about 39 seconds a couple weeks ago so I guess we’ll scrap that matchup (laughs).
Well Sean that’s all I had for you. Any final words you would like to pass along to your fans out there?
Got to thank the loyal fans for the support over the years. Check out the action figure Round Five at FYE stores, among others.
My sponsors …. Warrior Wear and Island Supplements and Minnesota Martial Arts Academy and API.
Thanks again Sean. We’ll do it again soon. Best of luck to you in a few weeks.
Cool, alright thanks.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA columnist.
His articles are featured on InsideFights.com, TopGunMMA.com, CBSSportsline.com, and BleacherReport.com Send a question or comment to: