|Sean Sherk, black and orange trunks charging Kenny Florian at UFC 64. Sherk won the fight and the vacant lightweight championship. (Josh Hedges,UFC)
It wasn’t exactly a case of ‘take this job and shove it’, but it was pretty close.
"I just walked into my boss’s office, I said ‘I’m out of here, I’ll see you later’ and that was it," recalls Sean ‘The Muscle Shark’ Sherk.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight champ would rather forget the days when both the UFC and Japan’s Pride Fighting Championship didn’t return his calls.
Despite having a record of 17-1-1 at the time, bad blood between Sherk’s management and the UFC kept him out of the big show.
He went on to three Pride fights (all victories), before they too, stopped calling. There weren’t many fighters who wanted to step into the ring with the five-foot-six powerhouse.
He took on a few scraps in smaller shows in the U.S. but they weren’t paying the bills.
So, reluctantly, Sherk stepped away from the sport he loved to take a factory job.
"It was real tough,"recalls the 33-year-old who was away from the fight game for nearly a year in 2005.
"I was getting up in the morning, working all day and watching all of these other guys training and fighting and making money doing something that I wasn’t able to do anymore, so I was real frustrated. I mean I wasn’t a happy guy to live with, that’s for sure."
Sherk says his wife was the one who encouraged him to get back into the cage.
The explosion of The Ultimate Fighter TV show had brought a new fan base to mixed-martial arts and the UFC grew from three or four shows a year to 10.
Sherk called his agent and within two weeks he was back in the UFC.
Less than a year after his return — a loss to Canadian welterweight Georges St Pierre — he dropped down to the 155 lbs. class and was crowned champ after a victory over Kenny Florian.
Sherk makes his first title defence tonight against Brazilian Hermes Franca at UFC 73 in Sacramento.
Life for the 33-year old chiseled scrapper, has taken a 180-degree turn.
Fighters are not ducking him anymore, they want his belt.
The relationship with the UFC couldn’t be better and most importantly, he says, he’s doing what he loves and it’s paying the bills.
Middleweight Phil Baroni tested positive for banned substances following his loss to Frank Shamrock at the Strikeforce/Elite XC card June 22. The California State Athletic Commission fined the 31-year-old ‘New York Bad Ass’ $2,500 and suspended for a year. Baroni’s manager said the fighter did not knowingly ingest the drugs and will contest the findings that claim boldenone and stanozolol metabolites were in his system.
If the Vegas betting odds are any indication, UFC 73 will play out like this: Anderson ‘Spider’ Silva will beat Nate ‘The Great’ Marquardt; Tito ‘Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ Ortiz will edge a victory over ‘Sugar’ Rashad Evans and Sean ‘The Muscle Shark’ Sherk will retain his lightweight belt after beating Hermes Franca. Antonio Rodrigo ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira is also heavily favoured to beat Heath ‘Texas Crazy Horse’ Herring. But remember, this has been a year of upsets in the UFC, so there is no safe bet.
The highly anticipated debut of young Pride star Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua in the cage is rumoured to be set for UFC 76 on Sept. 22 in Anaheim, Calif. No word yet on who the light-heavyweight will be facing. Mike Swick and Evan Tanner are also rumoured to be on the bill.
Proving that not all re-runs are a bad thing, this coming Thursday’s UFC Unleashed on SPIKE TV will feature some great fights. Showcased will be Matt Hughes victory over the legendary Royce Gracie at UFC 60 as well as his stunning defeat at the fists and feet of Canadian Georges St. Pierre at UFC 65.
For the latest mixed-martial arts news, check out The Scrapyard blog at canoe.ca