by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
UFC president Dana White spoke with MMAWeekly about the Sean Sherk situation and what Zuffa will do with the UFC Lightweight Title if Sherk’s one year suspension is upheld by the California State Athletic Commission.
Sherk was granted an extension yesterday and will go in front of the commission in October seeking to win his appeal, or at the very least get a reduction in the one year suspension handed down by the commission for his positive test for the steroid Nandrolone following his UFC 73 lightweight title bout against Hermes Franca.
“I’ll see what the Commission says and I’ll go from there,” the UFC president told MMAWeekly.
Asked if Sherk is suspended for a year, will he be stripped of his title? White answered, “I don’t know. I want to sit down with him. I want to talk to him. He’s a good man. I want to talk to him.”
White continued, “He looked me in the eye and told me like a man, ‘I didn’t do it.’ I believe him. I don’t think he’s a liar. I don’t think he’s a cheater. He’s a good guy, he works hard and I’m going to take his word for it.”
Sherk’s not the first UFC champion to test positive for steroids, and the UFC does not necessarily have to strip him of his title. There are a few different options the UFC could elect to use that they have implemented in the past when dealing with champions testing positive, not defending their titles or leaving the UFC altogether.
There have been two previous UFC champions that tested positive for steroids following a title fight, and each situation was handled differently.
Josh Barnett tested positive for steroids, something he still denies to this day, after defeating Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture at UFC 36 March 22, 2002. Barnett was subsequently stripped of his UFC heavyweight title. Couture and Ricco Rodriguez then fought for the vacant title at UFC 39.
Tim Sylvia tested positive for steroids following his UFC 44 win over Gan Mcgee September 26, 2003. Sylvia admitted guilt to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and willingly relinquished his belt. After serving his suspension, Sylvia fought Frank Mir for the vacant title at UFC 48. Unlike the Barnett situation where the number one and two contenders fought for the vacant title, the UFC did not strip Sylvia, as Sylvia chose to relinquish his title.
There have been four other circumstances with UFC title holders that forced Zuffa to take action, or not take action in two of the cases.
Jens Pulver obtained the UFC lightweight title by defeating Caol Uno at UFC 30 February 23, 2001. He defended the belt two times before leaving the UFC to fight in other promotions. Two years after Pulver first won the belt BJ Penn and Uno fought to a draw for the vacant title. The UFC dropped the lightweight division for a brief period before bringing it back and crowning Sean Sherk as champion at UFC 64 October 14, 2006. There wasn’t a lightweight champion in the UFC for nearly six years.
In a similar situation, Murilo Bustamante became UFC Middleweight Champion by defeating Dave Menne at UFC 35 January 11, 2002. Bustamante defended his belt once before leaving the UFC to fight in Japan. There wouldn’t be another UFC middleweight title bout for more than three years when Evan Tanner gained the middleweight belt by defeating David Terrell at UFC 51 February 5, 2005.
Tito Ortiz won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship by defeating Wanderlei Silva at UFC 25 April 14, 2000. After defending the belt five times Ortiz was injured, was pursuing an acting career and in contract re-negotiations with the UFC that resulted in him setting out from competition for ten months. During that time the UFC was pushing for the long awaited match up between Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. When they were unable to put the bout together, and negotiations with Ortiz were at a stand still, the UFC lined up Liddell vs. Randy Couture at UFC 43 for the UFC light heavyweight interim title. Ortiz then fought Couture for the actual light heavyweight belt at UFC 44.
Frank Mir won the UFC heavyweight title defeating Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 June 19, 2004. Mir didn’t get a chance to defend his belt due to a motorcycle accident on September 17, 2004 that broke his femur in two places. While Mir recovered from his injuries, the UFC created an interim title. Andrei Arlovski was crowned the UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion when he defeated Tim Sylvia at UFC 51 February 5, 2005. When Mir’s recovery took longer than anticipated, Mir was stripped of the belt after fourteen months of inactivity. Arlovski was named the “undisputed champion” later that year.
At this point, the UFC doesn’t know what they’re going to do with the lightweight title if Sean Sherk has to serve a year suspension from competition. It’s a waiting game, and clearly they have a few different options. Sherk could be stripped, he could relinquish the belt on his own, the UFC could crown an interim title or they could leave the title vacant until Sherk’s suspension runs out or any duration of time they choose.
The UFC doesn’t have to make any decision until October when Sherk will appear before the athletic commission to appeal his case. White stated, “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what the Commission says.”