Looking to pound Penn

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, MMA

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

Sean Sherk has always taken a journeyman approach to fighting.

For the former lightweight champ, there's never been any animosity to the fighter standing across from him. Until now.

The Minnesota native admits his fight against B.J. Penn at UFC 84 is personal.

"B.J.'s a pretty disrespectful dude," says Sherk. "He talks a lot of trash and he doesn't have any class. Normally this is just a job for me. Now, I'm actually looking forward to getting in there and punching the guy in the face."

Penn has called Sherk a juiced-up fighter since the 34-year-old tested positive for nandrolone following his successful title defence against Hermes Franca last July.

The California State Athletic Commission suspended him for a year. On appeal, the suspension was cut in half, but the UFC stripped him of his belt and held a main event between B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson for the vacant lightweight crown.

Penn won and has taken every opportunity since to bad-mouth Sherk.

"That's the pot calling the kettle black. B.J.'s no innocent," says Sherk. "He's running around beating up cops outside of bars (referring to an incident in 2005 in which Penn was charged with striking a police officer) and I know he has some recreational habits that people would frown upon.

"B.J. should take a look in the mirror before he starts talking trash about me. He contradicts himself a lot and he's a hypocrite."

Sherk says the fight against Penn will be the most important of his near-flawless career.

The only two blemishes on his 32-2 record came when he was fighting at 170 lbs. against Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes -- both champs in that weight class.

"A lot of this is vindication for me. It's redemption," he says about the May 24 fight at the MGM Grand in Vegas.

Sherk, who has maintained from the beginning he didn't take any illegal substance, acknowledges that it will be tough to shake the label of cheater after his suspension.

"All I'd ask is that people take a look at the facts about testing and how my case was handled," he says.

"I ask that people take a look at all the things I proved and all the things California messed up on.

"I had clean bloodwork, I took three polygraphs and passed all three. If I was lying, I would have failed it at least one of those times."

Penn is doing everything in his power to make sure fans don't forget Sherk was stripped of the belt for cheating.

"That's all he's got. He wants to bring legitimacy to the belt that he won and that's the only way he's going to bring legitimacy to it is by downplaying what I had accomplished," says Sherk.

"I've said from the beginning, if you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ and B.J. didn't beat me. We'll find out May 24 who the real champ is."


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