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Sean Sherk Interview Part II: “The number one contender spot is pretty much the championship belt”

In part one of’s exclusive interview with former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk, we discussed his feelings on the resignation of California State Athletic Commission executive director Armando Garcia; whether he intends to pursue further legal action in an attempt to clear his name of a positive steroid test; his thoughts on Brock Lesnar’s victory over Randy Couture at UFC 91; and more.

In Part II, we ask Sherk to give his thoughts on last week’s controversy involving Jon Fitch; his feelings on the THQ licensing agreement and whether he has signed it; as well as Sherk’s feelings about B.J. Penn’s absence from the UFC’s lightweight division while he pursues Georges St. Pierre and the UFC welterweight title.

Before we get to Part II of this interview, we’d like to thank Round 5 for making Sherk available to us as a part of the launch for the second series of their “Champions of MMA” action figures.

Sam Caplan: I wanted to go back to the whole Fitch situation. He was technically only a free agent for 24 hours from the time he was cut to the time everything was worked out. But Dana said it was a number of things and that it wasn’t just a marketing agreement. He indicated that a lot of the problems stemmed from issues with Fitch’s camp and management. However, it’s been said that the video game likeness issue was definitely one component of the whole big picture. As far as the UFC 2009: Undisputed, I wanted to ask if you had signed a specific licensing agreement for that game?

Sean Sherk: Yes, I did. I’ve got no problem with that. I love being a part of the UFC and I’m really excited to see everything that has come into play with the organization. I’ve been with UFC since day one. UFC 30 was the very first UFC that Zuffa was the owner of. I’ve been with Zuffa since day one and I’m really excited with all the stuff they have going on now. Dana called me and said “Hey, I’ve got this thing going with the video game.” I already did a photo shoot for the video game so I knew I was going to be in it and I’ve got no problem with signing an exclusive deal.

Sam Caplan: But now there is some question whether it’s even exclusive. Dana has come out and confirmed that it is indeed a lifetime agreement but has disputed reports that it’s exclusive. Meaning, the UFC will always have the right to use your likeness for a video game but that if you were to go to go elsewhere, you’d still have the freedom to appear in a competing game.

Sean Sherk: Okay. I haven’t even had a chance to go over the contract in detail yet. That’s fine. If someone wants to throw me into a video game then I don’t have a problem with that. It’s only going to help me, really. However the UFC wants to go about that — they know what they’re doing and I’m not going to try and dispute what they’re doing because they’ve obviously made a lot of progress in this industry and if it wasn’t for them, none of us would be where we are at right now.

Sam Caplan: Do you receive additional compensation for appearing in the game?

Sean Sherk: I do not know. What I do remember about it — and again, I’m not real familiar with the contract, as I haven’t read it in detail yet — but I do know we can sell sponsorship spots on there. So they are going to allow us to sell hats, shorts, shirts, and patches and with that being said, you could very easily make $100,000 off something like that.

Sam Caplan: I wanted to ask you about the Tyson Griffin fight. It was a unanimous decision victory in your favor and I wanted to know how you felt about that fight. Was it a fight you were looking forward to and how did you feel about your performance and Tyson’s?

Sean Sherk: Again, I’ve been out of it for the past couple of weeks and I haven’t even seen that fight on video yet. Just from what I remember while actually being out there fighting, I felt it was a good fight and we got fight of the night and everyone was happy.

I got a lot of praise afterwards and a lot of compliments on my hands, which was kind of the gameplan going in. The plan was to try and shoot in a couple of times but not waste too much energy shooting on him and spend most of my time out-boxing him. My boxing is very, very underrated and if people want to continue to underrate my boxing, that’s fine, because I will box your ears off.My boxing is better than what people give me credit for. It’s not a hole in my game by any means.

The fight with Tyson pretty much turned into a kickboxing match, which I kind of had thought it would. It was exciting and we were going back and forth and really getting after it and I think a lot of people enjoyed it.

Sam Caplan: Has there been any indication as to when you might be fighting next?

Sean Sherk: I have no idea. I’m going to assume… maybe April? I don’t really know for sure, as I haven’t spoken to anyone with the UFC yet. I was hoping to get the winner of Joe Stevenson vs. Kenny Florian and I was actually hoping that Stevenson would win that fight because I wanted to fight Joe next. But I hear they’re offering a title shot now so I don’t what’s in line for me next.

All I really want to do is just fight the best guys in the industry. I want to fight people that have as much to offer me as I have to offer them. I want to fight somebody with a resume that looks like mine. I’m not interested in fighting up and comer guys; I’m not interested in fighting guys that have never been in main events or co-main events; I’m not interested in fighting guys that have never beaten world class competition.

Again, I want to fight guys with the same kind of resume as me and I think I deserve that. I’ve got 41 professional fights; I’ve fought in two separate weight classes; I’ve fought for titles in two separate weight classes; and I’ve been ranked alongside the top fighters in the world for the past seven years. I just want to fight the best guys out there and I want to fight guys that have something to offer me.

Sam Caplan: You mentioned that you only want to fight top guys and that you don’t want to fight up and coming guys. Coming into the Tyson Griffin fight, which category did you think Tyson fell into?

Sean Sherk: In my opinion, coming into the Tyson Griffin fight, I felt Tyson was the top contender. You look at everyone who he had beaten and he has beaten some really tough guys. He’s gotten fight of the night two or three times and he had been main card several times and I looked at him like a top contender.

It was actually me that had asked for that fight, and those are the reasons why. I was looking at the entire division and I looked at it and said, “Tyson Griffin, that’s the top guy and that’s who I want to go after” and so that was the fight I asked for.

Now that I’ve beaten Tyson, I look at the division and go, “Okay, where do I go now?” I don’t see anybody that’s got that type of resume. I considered him to have a good resume and like I said, I’m just looking to fight guys that have resumes like mine and that are top contenders and are guys that I can benefit from fighting.

Sam Caplan: If the UFC told Kenny Florian, “Hey, you’re going to have to wait a while to cash in that title shot but you can fight before then but risk your title shot” and Florian was okay with that, would a rematch vs. Florian be something that you were interested in?

Sean Sherk: Definitely. I think Kenny has got a great resume. He fought me for the world title, he’s been the main event several times, he’s been co-main event several times, he’s beaten top competition and is on like a five or six fight win streak. He’s gotten a lot of exposure and I’d love to have that fight.

But I don’t think they’re going to offer that fight to me though because then I’ll be fighting for the belt rather than him and I just fought B.J., who is kind of in hiatus right now. He just kind of left the weight class. With 155, it’s one of the most stacked weight classes right now and the unfortunate thing is that there is no one at the top of it defending the belt right now. There are a lot of guys fighting their way up to the top trying to get title shots and then once you get up to the top, you’re like, “Okay, so where’s the champion?”

You don’t even have anyone to fight so it’s kind of frustrating to me and it’s got to be frustrating to other guys because nobody really knows what’s going on right now. It just kind of sucks. I think if you’re going to be a champion for the weight class then you should stay at that weight class and defend the belt. If you go to a different weight class then the belt should be left behind and give somebody else an opportunity to fight for it.

Sam Caplan: So you’re saying that if B.J. wants to go after the welterweight title currently held by Georges St. Pierre that he should have to relinquish the lightweight title?

Sean Sherk: To be honest with you, if you’re going to be gone 13, 14, or 15 months, I think you should relinquish the belt. There’s a lot of guys right now fighting their way to the top and trying to get that belt. A lot of guys want that number one contender spot. Once you get that number one contender spot, then what? The champion is gone. The champion is fighting at 170 so now when you get up to that number one contender spot you can’t even fight for a belt because the champion is not competing in the weight class anymore.

For me, it’s a hard pill to swallow because I want to be the number one contender; I want to fight for the belt. Okay, but where’s the champion? Kenny wants to fight for the belt. Okay, but where’s the champion? We’ve got no champion to fight so basically we just keep fighting for the number one contender spot. The number one contender spot is pretty much the championship belt, I guess.

Sam Caplan: Leading up to the Penn fight it was depicted that there was a lot of bad blood between the two of you. Yet, since that fight, photos have surfaced on the Internet of you two hanging out. How real was the animosity the supposedly existed between the two of you before you fought?

Sean Sherk: Leading into the fight, that was 100 percent real. We both felt like we owned that belt and he took the steroid thing for all he could and I mean it was definitely 100 percent real. We actually did a TV show together and did an appearance together so we were hanging out for a few days, which was no big deal. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones but ultimately I want to fight for that belt again and he’s the one who has it so he’s the one that I want to fight. And if we fight again I guarantee you there’s going to be a lot of heat and there’s going to be a lot of fireworks just like there was before.

Sam Caplan: What’s the relationship with Penn like now?

Sean Sherk: We’re both professionals in and outside of the cage. If I see B.J. inside the cage, I’m going to want to fight him. If I see B.J. outside of the cage then I’ll shake his hand and say “Hey, how are you doing?” That’s how I am and that’s how I operate.

Sam Caplan: Do you consider him a friend?

Sean Sherk: It’s hard to call someone a friend when you haven’t hard a chance to get to know them very well. There’s very, very few people that I consider friends in this industry. There’s a lot of people that I consider acquaintances of mine and I guess I would consider B.J. and acquaintance more than anything.