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Sherk rounding back into fighting shape

April 15th, 2007 · No Comments · News

Lightweight champ eyes return to octagon in July

The rejuvenated lightweight division is back in the Ultimate Fighting Championship spotlight.

A battle between two lightweights — Roger Huerta and Leonard Garcia — at UFC 69 produced the fight of the night in Houston. Fellow 155-pounders Joe Stevenson and Melvin Guillard received top billing at Ultimate Fight Night 9 earlier this month, and the new season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show is focused exclusively on fighters in the division.

Sean Sherk is the man wearing the division’s bull’s-eye.

Sherk, 33, earned the lightweight crown with a unanimous-decision victory over Kenny Florian at UFC 64 in November but hasn’t been heard from since. Sherk tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder a week before the fight. He had surgery two weeks after the bout and has traded training for rehabilitation for much of 2007.

“I fought with it torn,” Sherk said. “I’m sure I did a lot of damage during the fight — a 25-minute fight — with a torn shoulder. It was a gamble fighting with a torn rotator, but it was definitely worth the risk.”

Doctors told Sherk it would be nine months to a year before he could train intensely or fight again, but his rehab is ahead
of that schedule. Sherk is training 90 minutes a day and expects to resume full-time gym work within the next two weeks.

The faster-than-expected recovery has allowed Sherk to pencil in his first title
defense for July. Although not officially announced yet by the UFC, Sherk will face No. 1 contender Hermes Franca at UFC 73.

“He’s been around a long, long time and is really well-rounded,” Sherk said. “I’m expecting an all-out war. He brings the action to his opponents, and I do the same thing, so it should be a real good fight for the fans.”

The significant edge Sherk will bring into the Franca fight is the same advantage he has fighting virtually any opponent in the division: brute strength. “The Muscle Shark” is an appropriate nickname for a 5-foot-6 fighter built like a bowling ball.

“That’s a great attribute,” Sherk said. “I’ve been fighting at 170 (pounds) my whole career. I’ve never had anyone outpower me. Now, I bring
that same power down to 55, and I think it’s going to be more of an attribute than it was at 170.”

A successful defense against Franca would set up the biggest fight of Sherk’s career late this year. He would likely face the winner of the Jens Pulver-BJ Penn clash in June.

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