Royce Gracie’s victory over Ken Shamrock at Bellator 149 attracted the attention of at least one retired former UFC champion.
Not long after Gracie’s controversial first-round technical knockout triumph over his longtime rival was in the books, ex-lightweight king Sean Sherk took to Facebook to express interest in a future fight with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.
“The Muscle Shark” reiterated that desire during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. While the competitive itch still drives the 42-year-old Minnesota native, he made it clear that he isn’t interested in coming out of retirement for just any fight.
“It sounds like a lot of people would be interested in seeing that, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while,” Sherk said. “It’s always weighed heavily on my mind. Being a working-class guy, it doesn’t fit me well. I want to compete; I want to fight, but if I do, it’s going to have be against someone like Royce. It’s going to have to be a pioneer or a legend or somebody with accomplishments like myself. Some kind of a superfight.”
It has been than five years since Sherk last competed in mixed martial arts, when he captured a contentious split decision triumph over Evan Dunham at UFC 119. He recognizes that he would need some time to get into fighting shape should such an opportunity arise.
“I would probably need a good four months or so, a good solid training camp to get myself to where I need to be. I’m not in bad shape. i still work out on a regular basis, just not the same as I was when I was competing,” he said. “Do I want to make another title run? No, I don’t want to. I want to come back for some kind of a super fight. Where it goes from there, I don’t know. That’s kind of my thought process.”
Sherk made his name in the Octagon, holding the UFC’s lightweight crown while also unsuccessfully challenging Matt Hughes for the 170-pound strap. He went 36-4-1 over the course of a pro career that began in 1999, several years before “The Ultimate Fighter” launched the sport into another bracket of mainstream recognition. During his promotional tenure Sherk defeated the likes of Nick Diaz, Kenny Florian and Tyson Griffin. His only four defeats all came against opponents who were or would become UFC champions: Hughes, Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar.
Despite that history, Sherk has no desire to return to the Las Vegas-based promotion. Bellator MMA’s penchant for “fun fights,” along with the freedom to pursue sponsorships, makes it the most appealing destination for the ex-champ.
“I don’t really have any interest in fighting in the UFC. I think there’s a lot more opportunity outside of the UFC organization at this point in time. I think that they have such a strong hold on the industry and such a strong hold on the fighters. I don’t want have to be told who I’m going to be sponsored by and make little to no money. I’d rather fight for somebody else and have the freedom to earn sponsorships and everything else that comes my way,” he said.
“I don’t follow the sport a whole lot. I’m pretty busy doing my other stuff. I know friends of mine and former training partners that fight for Bellator. I know a lot of the UFC guys are switching over to Bellator. I’ve heard from several different sources that they treat the guys pretty good. I thought that would be a good place for me to start.”
Sherk admits that he doesn’t watch MMA as fan because his competitive side would not allow him to enjoy it -- and that includes Gracie-Shamrock. He exited the sport in 2010 because of the toll it was beginning to take on his body.
“I think in the back of my mind I knew I was gonna retire before that last fight took place. I didn’t let that thought process take me over, but I knew the end of the road was coming near. My body just wasn’t responding the way I wanted it to. I knew it was coming to an end,” he said. “I didn’t announce my retirement until several years after that last fight. I do avoid watching fights. I don’t watch fights at all. I didn’t even watch the fight with Royce and Ken. I just heard something about a knee to the groin. I don’t watch the sport; I don’t follow the sport. For me, it does bring back that competitive drive, so I just stayed away from it.”
But now, at least one fight -- and promotion -- has piqued his interest. Sherk’s body, at least in his mind, is healthy enough to compete. Now it’s simply a matter of waiting to see what may fall into place.
“I’m not training for a fight right now, but my regular routine training stuff I feel real good. I’m in great shape; I work out five or six days a week,” said Sherk, who currently renovates and sells houses. “Who knows what’s gonna happen when I get back to the fight training stuff? I think I just have to ease my way into it, obviously. I just want to throw the offer out there to fight with Royce if he’s interested. But if not, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”