Sean Sherk file photo: Sherdog.com
Former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk owns one impressive mixed martial arts resume.
The 37-year-old Sherk has only four career losses, all of them to former or current UFC champions: Frankie Edgar, B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. He has 21 finishes (eight knockouts, 13 submissions) among his 32 wins and holds victories over Karo Parisyan (twice), world-ranked featherweight Manny Gamburyan, Benji Radach, current Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, two-time UFC title contender Kenny Florian, former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight titleholder Hermes Franca and Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts standout Tyson Griffin. In 37 contests, the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product has never been submitted.
Plagued by injuries for the better part of a year, Sherk wants to prove he still belongs among the elite at 155 pounds. He will take on the unbeaten Evan Dunham in a featured lightweight matchup at UFC 119 “Mir vs. Cro Cop” on Sept. 25 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“Everyone keeps bringing up this age thing, but when I fought [Edgar], I didn’t get my ass kicked by any means,” Sherk said during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s Savage Dog Show. “I lost the decision, but I didn’t get beat up. I didn’t get taken down. I didn’t get hurt. I didn’t get knocked out. So as far as me not being able to compete, I still think I’m one of the best fighters in the world.
“I’m a force to be reckoned with,” he added. “Anyone who thinks I’m not can step in the Octagon with me. I’ve got all kinds of stuff left to offer this industry and this sport. I’m not going anywhere for a long time. I haven’t lost any athleticism. I haven’t lost any of my ability. I’ve only gotten better, and I’ve only gotten smarter.”
Due to injuries, Sherk has not competed since his unanimous decision defeat to Edgar at UFC 98 in May 2009. He was forced to drop out of fights against Gleison Tibau at UFC 104 in October (right shoulder injury), Jim Miller at UFC 108 in January (cut on his forehead) and Clay Guida at UFC Live 1 in March (undisclosed injury).
“I trained so hard for years, and I felt like I had to train hard and train myself 100 percent for these fights because I was fighting a lot of tough guys,” Sherk said. “I really haven’t fought anybody who was outside the top 10 since 2005. I’ve had to train my butt off to get ready for these fights, and I did what I needed to do. Unfortunately, after training that hard for that long, your body will start giving out on you. But I took some time off and was able to get myself healed up.”
Despite his lengthy career and impressive victories, Sherk finds himself listed as an underdog to Dunham going into the fight. Some point to the injury-induced layoff; others simply view Dunham as the superior fighter. Sherk has no idea why oddsmakers favor his opponent, nor does he care.
“To be honest, I don’t ever go online,” Sherk said. “I don’t read any press. I don’t read any interviews. I don’t listen to what the fans say. It really doesn’t matter to me. I’ve been the underdog, but I’m actually surprised that I’m the underdog [against Dunham]. I’ve accomplished more than 95 percent of the fighters in the world have accomplished, so it kind of surprises me that I’d be considered the underdog. But that’s great. I’ve been dealing with adversity and stuff like that my entire career, so this won’t be any different.”
Sherk does not anticipate any negative affects from his 16-month layoff when he enters the cage against Dunham, a 28-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has yet to taste defeat in 11 professional appearances.
“I’ve been competing since I was 7 years old,” Sherk said. “It’s not like you forget how to fight because you took a year off. I think the main thing is that I’m totally 100 percent rejuvenated. I’m excited to be back in the Octagon again. I’ve had about a 17-week training camp for this fight, so it’s not like I’ve been sitting at home watching TV and eating potato chips. I’ve done a lot of preparation for this thing. I’m more than ready.”