by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder B.J. Penn and former champion Sean Sherk won’t square off until May, but the war of words between the two has been heating up for months.

Sherk feels he’s still the champion and after comments made by Penn in his post-fight interview following his impressive win over Joe Stevenson at UFC 80, Sherk says, “Now it’s personal.”

In his UFC 80 in-Octagon interview with Joe Rogan, Penn commented, “Sean Sherk, you’re dead.”

Needless to say the comments didn’t set well with Sherk who immediately left his commentary position and entered the Octagon.

“I thought it was a pretty classless thing to do, but what do you do? I guess that’s just who B.J. is, so I think it will add more to our fight when we fight later on this year,” Sherk told MMAWeekly.

Sherk admitted Penn’s statements got to him.

“I was fired up for sure. I mean, I would rather fight any day of the week than sit on the outside and watch, so it was hard enough to watch, and then to be threatened afterward. It wasn’t an easy thing to deal with. I was pretty fired up,” said the 34-year-old former champion.

Sherk plans to use Penn’s threat as motivation to prepare for their eventual showdown saying, “It definitely plays a big factor in the motivation because I train hard the way it is and I’ve never really fought someone that I had a personal issue with. Now I’ve got a personal issue with someone.

“He’s attacking me personally. He’s saying stuff about me that isn’t true. Yeah, it motivates me to train harder. I mean, I can’t lose a fight to someone who is talking smack about me. That’s just something I can’t do, so I’m going to train my ass off and make sure I win this fight.”

Although Penn is the current UFC lightweight champ, Sherk feels the belt still belongs to him. Stripped of the title due to a positive test for Nandrolone, a result Sherk disputes, he’s eager for the opportunity to get the belt back.

“I still feel like the title still belongs to me. I think if you want to be the champ you’ve got to beat the champ.

“It’s exciting to get back in there. It’s been a long layoff. There’s been a lot of stuff that has happened over the last few months. It’ll be good to get everything behind me, just get my career back on track and get what I feel is rightfully mine.”

While sitting cage-side commentating the bout between Penn and Stevenson in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, Sherk was scouting his future opponent for strengths and weaknesses he may be able to expose when the two face off.

He said, “I see some things in the boxing area that maybe I can exploit. I see some things on the ground that I could exploit. You just train to the best of your potential. You surround yourself with the best trainers and training partners that you can and you prepare yourself for whatever can happen when you’re in the cage fighting because anything can happen and the game plan could change within the blink of an eye.”

Sherk continued, “As far as a lightweight goes, I don’t think anyone is going to give him the problems that I’m going to give him.”

Sherk and Penn were top-ranked welterweights that never got to fight in that division. When Penn obtained the vacant UFC lightweight title, stripped from Sherk’s waist, the bout became set in stone.

“That’s the fight I’ve wanted for a long time,” stated Sherk. “I’m finally getting it. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to get it done.”