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Q&A: UFC lightweight champion Sean ‘Muscle Shark’ Sherk

July 4th, 2007 · No Comments · News

July 4, 2007
By Gary Herman
Special to CBS SportsLine.com

On Saturday, Sean “Muscle Shark” Sherk makes the first defense of his UFC lightweight championship in a matchup against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Hermes Franca.

We recently caught up with Sherk to discuss his fight with Franca. We also spoke about this season’s Ultimate Fighter show and his thoughts on the Pride purchase.

What’s it like for you in the week preceding the fight?

Sherk: Well, it’s a lot of preparation, a lot of game plan stuff, and a lot of intense training — everything just winding down and getting ready mentally and physically for showtime.

Hermes Franca has a style very opposite to yours. What kind of fight will your two styles make?

Sherk: Hermes isn’t much of a stand-up guy. He’s a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To be honest with you, I don’t think he cares where this fight ends up. He’s strong in every position, and he poses a threat in every position. My goal is to be stronger in every position and pose more of a threat.

Are you looking to use your advanced wrestling skills to take fight to the mat?

Sherk: I like to get out there and feel it out a little bit. If he makes a mistake, I’m going to pounce on it regardless. My goal is to go out there and put a lot of pressure on him, make him run out of gas, and wait for him to make a mistake.

As far as going to 155 pounds, this is your second fight at that weight — is it hard for you to get down to that weight?

Sean 'Muscle Shark' Sherk is ready to fight. (UFC)

Sherk: I’m about 170 now so I’m not too far off. The last six or seven pounds may be a bit of a challenge, but I should have about 32 hours to recover so by the time the fight rolls around, I should be walking into the cage about 175 pounds and fully recovered.

Do you expect to stay in the 155-pound weight class?

Sherk: Oh yeah, I’ll be staying at 155. I think this is a great weight class for me. I was just too small to fight at welterweight. The sport has evolved so much that part of my evolution is going down to a lower weight.

The UFC seems to be putting a lot behind the lightweight weight class recently by bringing in guys like Joe Stevenson, Roger Huerta and Din Thomas. What are your thoughts on the weight class?

Sherk: I think the 155 class is stacked. There are a lot of big names and a lot of good news guys coming out of the woodwork. The weight class is real deep. People love watching us fight. We go at it full speed, and we don’t get tired.

When you won the title with the victory over Kenny Florian, it was basically a one-fight tournament. How do you feel about winning the title in that manner as opposed to the normal way of defeating the reigning champion?

Sherk: Being that the title was vacant, the UFC wanted to crown a champion. They knew they were bringing the weight class back. They needed to have a champion that could represent the weight class, so I’m fine with that. My credentials at 170 are excellent. I’ve been one of the best welterweight fighters in the world. When I dropped to 155, my credentials came with me.

The fight with Kenny Florian was a very bloody fight. Are you fully recovered from the Florian elbow shot?

Sherk: Oh yeah — I’m fully recovered. I got nine stitches after the fight and then they were removed a week later. The injury had no long-term effects.

A big name in your weight class, B.J. Penn, recently said he was moving back to welterweight. What are your thoughts on that?

Sherk: B.J. is moving back to 170. He’s got some losses he wants to avenge up there. He dropped to 155 to avenge his loss against Jens Pulver and now he wants to go back to avenge his losses against Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre.

This season’s Ultimate Fighter was built around your weight class. Nate Diaz won the show albeit under somewhat unusual circumstances. What did you think of the show?

Sherk: There were a lot of good fighters. With the exception of the talent on the comeback season, this was probably the best show. I watched every episode.

Did you like the season?

Sherk: Yes, I did. I’m hoping to be the coach one of these days.

You’ve been in the sport since before the Ultimate Fighter show. What do you think of the fighters coming out of that program?

Sherk: I think it’s a great stepping stone for fighters. When I was coming up, we didn’t have that so I had to do it the old-fashioned way. I had to compete on a lot of smaller shows. This is a way for a lot of fighters to make a good amount of money right out of the gate. It also educated the public that the fighters are good, intelligent guys.

What do you think of Nate Diaz’s potential?

Sherk: I think he’s tough. His brother (Nick) is tough as nails and Nate is tough as nails. His boxing is very good and he’s real tall. That will make a big difference.

The big story over the past year has been the UFC purchase of Pride. The current Pride champion at a similar weight class is Takanori Gomi. What are your thoughts on a fight with Gomi?

Sherk: I’d love to. To be honest though, I’ve never seen him fight. I’ve only watched Pride two times. I know he’s tough and it would be a great opportunity to unify the belts. I did see highlights of his fight with Nick Diaz though.

Overall, what are your views on the Pride purchase?

Sherk: I think it’s great for the fans, but I don’t know how good it will be for the fighters. For us, it’s nice to have other venues to go to. For money, we want to create a bidding war so the more venues we have — the better the competition. But for the fans though, it will create a lot of great matchups.

Can we get a prediction for your fight with Franca?

Sherk: Depends on how long it takes for him to get tired. I’m going to push him real hard. I’m going to tire him out and wait for him to make a mistake. I’m hoping to take him out by the third round.

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