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A Hungry Sean Sherk Returns Against St. Pierre

November 11th, 2005 · No Comments · News

A Hungry Sean Sherk Returns Against St. Pierre

By Thomas Gerbasi
www.ufc.com

If you’re ever in Minnesota and see a 5-6 man who looks like he can walk through brick walls carrying diaper bags while pushing a stroller, no, your eyes aren’t fooling you – that’s Sean Sherk.

But even though the life of the welterweight contender has changed since he and his wife Heather welcomed their son Kyler into the world in 2004, one thing remains constant – Sherk still wants to be considered one of the best 170-pound fighters in the world, something he gets to prove on November 19th when he faces rising star Georges St. Pierre in a highly-anticipated bout on the UFC 56 – Full Force card.

And now he’s got even more reason to want to succeed.

“My life used to revolve 110% around training,” said Sherk. “But my son has changed my outlook on a lot of things because now there’s more of a sense of urgency. I want to win not only for my own goals, but for my family’s well-being as well.”

Another child is on the way for the Sherk family, so getting back into the swing of things quickly in the UFC is of utmost importance. But ironically, Sherk is coming off a nine-month hiatus (which ended with a September win over Joel Blanton) where he took time off to not only recharge his batteries, but to regain his love for a sport that had left him disillusioned.

“I got burned out,” admitted Sherk, 32, who began wrestling at the age of seven. “I recently took a nine month leave of absence from the sport and I wasn’t really involved in it at all. I didn’t watch it, I wasn’t training as much, I pretty much ate whatever I wanted to eat, which is a rarity, and being that I had that time off, it really made me hungry again. It made me realize what I was giving up and that was my reason for coming back.”

What Sherk was giving up was a chance to be a world champion in mixed martial arts, a goal he had been chasing since his pro debut in 1999. After that debut, a decision win over Roscoe Ostyn, Sherk went on a reign of terror, winning his next 16 fights with the only blemish being a draw against Kiuma Kunioku in a 2001 Pancrase bout. He was also 3-0 in the UFC, and a clash with another unstoppable force – champion Matt Hughes – was inevitable.

The bout between the two took place at UFC 42 on April 25, 2003, and after five rounds, Hughes emerged victorious via unanimous decision. Sherk had lost his first fight and his shot at the UFC title.

“I think my gameplan wasn’t what it should have been,” said Sherk. “I went out there with a game plan which I had never had in the past and I lost the first fight of my career. You can’t make any mistakes against a guy like Matt Hughes. You make a mistake against a guy like that and your night’s gonna be over pretty fast. Other than that my conditioning was great, and I never really felt like I was in any great jeopardy at any point in time, and maybe another round or two and I could have pulled off a decision, who knows.”

After the bout, Sherk expected to be back in the Octagon fairly soon. It was a view shared by many MMA fans. It didn’t happen.

“That was very disappointing because I felt like, at that time, I had arrived,” said Sherk. “I was fighting with a lot of intensity and my conditioning was great, so I figured I had marked a home in the UFC for a while after that fight. So I was really surprised to find out that I was let go. But I kept my head up and I just took my frustration out on my opponents.”

By August of 2003, Sherk was back in the ring and back to what he did best – grounding and pounding opponents to defeat. He won three times in 2003, and eight more in 2004, running his record to 28-1-1. But by then, with his son on the way and his frustrations with the industry mounting, he took a break, getting back into the workforce and even opening his own business.

He soon found out that the rigid 40 hour a week life wasn’t for him.

“I’m not a 9 to 5 guy,” admitted Sherk. “The whole time I’m at work I’m pissed because I look at everyone around me and think that they don’t have any options. Me, I have options. So knowing that, I think that I can always go back to that type of work anytime I want, but this here (fighting), there’s a small window of opportunity and I have to take it while I can. Plus, as far as knowing that I have options, I think it makes me a lot hungrier to be a fighter. I know what it’s like to work in the ‘real world’ and I don’t like it. So I want to make the most of this.”

And having spent time in the workforce, Sherk trains even harder because he knows what the alternative is.

“Oh yeah, because I know if I don’t win fights and people don’t invite me to the big shows, then eventually I’m gonna have to start working a 9 to 5, and I want to work harder to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” he said. “I do hold my fate in my own hands. The harder I work and the harder I train, the more I win. So if I’m in the gym three or four times a day, obviously my chance at success is a lot higher than if I were to train once a day. And who wouldn’t want to be a professional fighter? Who wouldn’t want to do this for a living? This is a great lifestyle.”

Sherk returned to active duty in the ring in September, apparently not missing a beat in submitting Blanton, and now he’s got a tough fight on his hands in heir apparent St. Pierre.

“I think it’s gonna be a great fight,” said Sherk. “Georges is a very well rounded fighter and he’s always in great shape, so I don’t see a big advantage going to either one of us as far as technique goes. I think conditioning is going to be pretty much equal and strength should be equal too, so I think it’s gonna be a barnburner.”

Yet even though a Hughes rematch might be in the offing for the winner (St. Pierre also had a loss pinned on him by the current champ), Sherk is trying not to look too far ahead.

“I don’t want to look past St. Pierre,” he said. “This guy’s the real deal and this is gonna be a great fight, but I can’t help but think that if I do win this fight I will be fighting for another title, and that’s more motivation for me to go out and win.”

And everyone knows that a hungry fighter is a dangerous one. Sherk has that hunger.

“I’m definitely a lot more hungry, knowing what it’s like to not have any job security and be on the outskirts of the big shows,” said Sherk. “It gives me a whole new perspective and I want to keep my place so I’m gonna come out with all guns blazing. I think the fans have a lot more to see – I’ve grown a lot more as a fighter; my striking’s a lot better, my ground game’s a lot better, so the fans will see a well-versed fighter who’s fighting with a lot to lose.”

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