by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
New Waters for the “Muscle Shark”
After a long absence, the UFC brought back the 155-pound weight class. Since its re-introduction, the lightweight division has been flourishing with activity and talent. The newly reformed division has only seen one champion in its history and now the UFC looks to crown a new king. At UFC 64, Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian will vie for the vacant UFC lightweight championship belt.
Sean Sherk has been training hard in preparation for his fight this Saturday night. The “Muscle Shark” has long been considered one of the top ranked welterweight fighters in the world. Dropping down in weight, Sherk will fight at the 155-pound limit for the first time in his UFC career.
“Training is going great. We’re hitting it real hard and we’ve got a great group of guys,” said Sherk. “Everything is going great.”
Working with guys like Nick Thompson, Dave Menne, and Brock Larson, the Minnesota native is progressing well with his training. Sherk is coming off of a win over Nick Diaz back at UFC 59. When he returns to the Octagon this Saturday, it will be his first fight since mid-April. Although Sean expressed his interest to fight sooner, the lay off allowed him to train and prepare more.
“I’m not one of those guys that likes to be laid off for seven months at a time because I’m a firm believer that the more I fight, the better I get.”
The 155-pound division is new territory for the UFC veteran. Transitioning to a lower weight class can sometimes be draining on a fighter.
“As far as dropping to 155, I’ve already dropped the weight twice. I did a few trial runs and I was able to make it both times. The second time was a lot easier than the first time,” revealed Sean. “When I make my weight on Friday, this will actually be the third time I’ve made the weight class so there’s not a doubt in my mind that I’m going to make it.”
Having lost to Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre, two of the top welterweights in the world, Sherk realized some of his size limitations at the 170-pound weight class. Although Sean has had success as a welterweight, he saw an opportunity in the resurgent lightweight division.
“My opportunity to be a world champion is for me to drop to 155. Like I said before, I’m a small welterweight, I don’t get much bigger than 175.”
Standing on the other side of the octagon this Saturday will be Kenny Florian. As a participant on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, Florian came up short in the finale against Diego Sanchez. Since that loss, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has compiled a three fight winning streak in the UFC, including an impressive submission victory over TKO lightweight champion Sam Stout.
“I’m not afraid of Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve been doing Jiu-Jitsu for twelve years. I train with really good Jiu-Jitsu guys…the word ‘black belt’ doesn’t scare me,” said Sherk confidently. “I’ll fight him on the ground, I’ll fight him on my feet.”
Going into Saturday night, Sean Sherk is a -450 betting favorite according to BetEagle.com. The UFC veteran commented on what he thought of the odds.
“He wants that belt just as much as me so odds don’t mean anything,” responded Sherk. “That’s just a guy sitting on the sideline making an opinion; opinions don’t mean s*** once you step into that cage.”
“He’s going to fight just as hard as I am. I got to go up there and I got to win this thing. He’s not going to lay down for me and he doesn’t care what the odds are,” added the former welterweight contender. “In his mind, he thinks he’s going to win this fight. In my mind, I think I’m going to win this fight too. It’s going to come down to whoever can execute their game plan the best.”
Since Sherk’s upcoming fight will be for the vacant UFC lightweight title, the match is schedule for five rounds. The “Muscle Shark” is no stranger to going to distance and has always been known for his great conditioning.
“I always prepare for long fights. This fight, I went the extra mile. I actually trained harder than I did for the [Matt] Hughes fight,” disclosed Sherk. “I’m not going to get tired regardless. I’m prepared for a five round fight.”
Having been in the fight game since 1999, the 33 year old Sherk is a very experienced fighter with an impressive record.
“I’ve got 37 fights under my belt. I’ve fought all over the world and I’ve been in the cage with some tough fighters. I’ve been in wars before; I’ve been in back and forth battles. Experience is going to play a big, big role. I don’t think Kenny has ever been in a back and forth battle before.”
Over three years ago, Sean had the opportunity to fight for the UFC welterweight championship. Even though he lost a decision to Matt Hughes, his aspiration of being a champion never stopped.
“I want to be a world champion. I don’t want to be one of the best in the world…I want to be the number one guy; I want to have the belt around my waist. I want to be the best in the world.”
On October 14th, his dream may become a reality.