Sunday, March 18, 2007

Four months later, Sherk still hasn't let UFC title sink in

By Roy Lang

Sean Sherk is one of only five world champions in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He might be the only champ who hasn't realized -- and doesn't want to -- the belt is his.

Five months ago, the "Muscle Shark" defeated Kenny Florian to capture the return of the lightweight belt to the UFC. An arm injury has sidelined Sherk since, but the 155-pounder is slated to defend his title in July against Hermes Franca.

"I'm far ahead of schedule," Sherk said Sunday, after he conducted a three-hour mixed-martial arts seminar at Impact Martial Arts in Bossier City. "I started training full-time about six weeks ago. I should be 100 percent in next month or two."

His shoulder and bicep injury (a "slap tear") and absence from the Octagon has taken Sherk away from the sport he loves. When he's not training, he's making appearances across the country. This weekend, Sherk was in Monroe for Battle Cage 360's 14-fight MMA card.

"When you go to all these difference places, the respect that people give you is really, really appreciated," Sherk said. "I've worked really hard to get to where I'm at.

When people do what they do, it shows the hard work does pay off."

Hard work didn't pay off for Sherk in his previous profession. The Minnesota native had a full-time job as a machinist while he fought his first 15 professional fights. He was soon laid off, but his unemployment coincided with the boom of MMA and the UFC.

"Knew the sport was going to be big, didn't know how long it was going to take or if I was going to be a part of that success," said Sherk, 33. "Fortunately I am and fortunately I have a good four or five years left in me."

Sherk makes "good money" from his appearances and autograph sessions, and it would see the sky is the limit for the top names in MMA.

"UFC has been good to us and there are big sponsors wanting to jump on board," Sherk said. "It's just a matter of time -- we're going to be making the big money, too."

Things are about to get crazy for Sherk again as his 12-week preparation plan for Franca is about to go into motion.

"I don't like to lose, so I make sure they are no stones uncovered," Sherk said. "It takes me a good 12 weeks to study for an opponent. I want to me more than ready when I step in the cage. I don't want an ounce of doubt in my mind."

Sherk's hard training will be accompanied by intense video training of Franca's tendencies and fighting style.

"I formulate a game plan in every single position," Sherk said. "It's mixed-martial arts, not grappling, it's not boxing, so I establish a game plan on my feet, how to get the fight on the ground and a plan for the ground. Every base is covered. It doesn't matter where I fight, I am going to have a game plan for every position I'm in."

When fight night arrives, Sherk will be roughly nine months removed from garnering the shiny belt. However, that might just be the first time he'll consider himself the champ.

"It's a dream come true, the championship is something that takes a long, long time to sink in," Sherk said. "When it comes down to defend the title, that's when it will sink in. That's when I'll think, 'If I lose, I'm going to lose my title.' Things are going to come to reality at that point in time."


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