Making an appearance at Saturday nights Battle Cage Extreme III event in Atlantic City was current UFC lightweight champion Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk. I was lucky enough to grab some face time with the champ and ask him a few questions about a potential bout with B.J. Penn, the Randy Couture situation, and his long term future in the world of MMA.
Note: This interview does not discuss Sherk’s upcoming steroid hearing for a variety of reasons, mostly time constraints and the fact that it was more important to get some commentary from Sherk rather than risk getting no content at all. I actually was not going to post the interview originally however I spoke with Kris (editor of ufcdaily) and he agreed that it still had relevant material. Also, you’ll see I ask Sean about his possible fight with B.J. Penn. This is because right before I spoke with Sherk he stated to others that Penn would be next on his list for a title defense (assuming everything goes well at his next hearing, though he did not comment on that.) That being said, enjoy.
Eric: Do you enjoy coming to these events and is this a regular thing for you?
Sean: I do these every weekend…you know I get paid for appearances but I like watching fights, meet new people make new fans. It’s great.
Eric: Is this your first time coming to New Jersey for an event?
Sean: I fought in New Jersey back in UFC 30… which was the first UFC event I ever fought in and that was at the Trump (Taj Mahal) so its been a while.
Eric: Now you defeated Hermes Franca who is supposed to have excellent jiujistu, do you think B.J. Penn’s jiu jitsu game is that much better?
Sean: I really think so, you know B.J.’s won a world title and I think his jiu jitsu is going to be the best I’ve ever faced.
Eric: How do you feel about B.J. being at 155lb now instead of 170 as a welterweight? Do you think he will lose some power dropping the weight?
Sean: I always thought that he was a better 155 pounder than he was at 170 I think he’s got better cardio, he’s more agile, quicker, and I think he’s a better fighter at 155 I always said that about him.
Eric: Are you training ground game more specifically for a potential fight with B.J. or is it just business as usual in the gym?
Sean: I train everything in the gym, I’ve been boxing for a real long time, wrestling all my life, I’ve been training jiujitsu for a long time now and I’ve got some real phenomenal people that I train jiujistu with. I’ll probably bring a couple more jiujistu guys to train with too.
Eric: Assuming Matt Huges beats Matt Serra in the TUF finale, who would you see winning another potential match between Hughes and contender George Saint Pierre? Since you’ve fought both of them before at welterweight.
Sean: Well that’s the rubber match and if Hughes can get that fight on the ground I think he’s got a pretty good chance but that’s a big if, you know GSP can sprawl and he’s a phenomenal athlete so if Hughes can get it on the ground he’s got the advantage but if it stays standing up I give the advantage to George Saint Pierre.
Eric: Matt Hughes said recently on the TUF series that he’s getting older and that he probably only has about two or three good fights left in him. Since you two are the same age (34) do you see retirement anywhere in your near future?
Sean: Do I plan on retiring any time soon? Not at all, I’m going to fight as long as I can. I love what I do and there’s nothing else I would rather do. When I start losing fights it will be time to walk away but as long as I’m winning I’m not going to retire any time soon.
Eric: Assuming you defeat B.J. Penn who’s left for Sean Sherk to face?
Sean: Well the weight class is stacked and there’s guys coming out of the wood work all the time. Joe Stevenson’s been on a winning streak, Frankie Edgar’s been winning some fights, (Kenny) Florian’s been winning a couple fights in a row…
Eric: Would you be content with fighting Kenny Florian again?
Sean: Why not? I beat him last time I don’t care, I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me.
Eric: So you’re not a real picker-chooser when it comes to your opponents?
Sean: You know what, when I retire from this sport I want to know that I fought the best of the best I don’t want a question mark at the end of my career saying “Did I fight the best guys out there? Was I the best fighter? If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best so put the best in front me and I’ll fight em.
Eric: Assuming you conquer everything there is to conquer at 155 lbs, do you think you might ever want to move back up to welterweight in the future?
Sean: You know what I just don’t fee like I need to, I like 155, I fought 37 fights as a welterweight…. I walk around at about 175-180lbs so it’s no problem for me to make welterweight I actually have to cut a lot of weight to make 155….I feel exactly the same at 155 as I do at 170 that’s why it’s a big advantage for me because I don’t lose any power and my cardio is actually better and I have more speed, agility, all and all its just a better fit.
Eric: Are you currently training full time?
Sean: Oh yea, I’ve been training full time for years.
Eric: Do you ever take a break from training?
Sean: Well I had to take a break after my last fight, I tore my shoulder which I had hurt before I even fought (Kenny) Florian. I had surgery and took six weeks off to rehab it.
Eric: Do you have a strategy in mind for a fight against B.J. Penn?
Sean: Just tire him out. I don’t care how I do it, just tire him out.
Eric: So you think cardio is still an issue for B.J. Penn?
Sean: Always man, Ive never seen him fight and not get tired so that’s always an issue
Eric: So you really think he will still get gassed and have that same problem again?
Sean: Look if you don’t have work ethic you don’t have work ethic. If you can’t diet properly and you can’t get your ass in the gym six days a week…I mean maybe he (B.J.) will do some things differently but he’s definitely not going to train as hard as I am, I promise you that.
Eric: You’re a big name in the UFC and everybody is still talking about the Randy Couture developments, what’s your take on that?
Sean: I think Couture’s phenomenal man I think he’s one of the best guys to ever step foot in the octagon. Like I said earlier about myself, I think Randy just wants to walk away from this sport knowing that he fought the best of the best. Right now Fedor (Emelianenko) is the number one heavyweight in the world everyone thinks he’s unbeatable and Randy wants to fight him and that makes sense. I hate to see him leave the UFC, but it makes sense for him and I support him. Randy’s 44 years old man, he’s a 4 time Olympian, 5 time UFC champion, he wants to fight the best in the world and he deserves it.
Eric: Have you ever personally experienced any of the problems that Couture claims to have had with UFC management?
Sean: I’ve never personally seen anything like that but there are other bigger organizations out there that are trying to compete with the UFC right now. UFC is obviously the big show in town and I think Randy left just because of Fedor.
Eric: People have joked in the past that the UF in UFC stands for Underpaid Fighters, do you think that has some truth to it from your perspective?
Sean: You know, they’ve taken pretty good care of me in the past year, the paydays could definitely be better I’m not going to lie to you, but they have taken good care of me and outside of the paydays you’ve got all kinds of exposure and sponsorships, appearances, etc.
Eric: A lot of guys in the UFC including yourself are sponsored by Xyience, they still treating you well?
Sean: Oh no I’m not sponsored by them any more, I used to be but they stiffed me a bunch of money, they stiff everybody a lot of people are leaving them.
Eric: Alright Sean thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.
Sean: You got it.