Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it.
When Sean Sherk was at his best, few could match him. The stocky wrestler from St. Francis, Minnesota, used his combination of pure physical strength, stellar conditioning and time-tested technique to remain unbeaten (19-0-1) through his first 20 pro bouts before challenging Matt Hughes for the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title in 2003. Sherk came up short against Hughes at UFC 42, but “The Muscle Shark” was well on his way to a terrific career in mixed martial arts.
After bowing to Hughes, Sherk bounced between the UFC, Pride Fighting Championships and a number of regional shows, rattling off 12 straight victories before running into an all-time great. His technical knockout loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 56 proved to be just a speed bump, as he rebounded with a unanimous decision over Nick Diaz before challenging Kenny Florian for the vacant UFC lightweight championship. Sherk claimed a unanimous decision over Florian at UFC 64 on Oct. 14, 2006, capturing his first world title in what became his crowning achievement.
Sherk defeated Hermes Franca in his next outing but was stripped of the 155-pound title when he failed a post-fight urinalysis. A little less than a year later, he succumbed to strikes from B.J. Penn in their battle for the vacant lightweight belt at UFC 84. Sherk finished his career by sandwiching wins over Tyson Griffin and Evan Dunham around a unanimous decision loss to Frankie Edgar. He retired in 2013 with a 36-4-1 record.
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