Retired champion Sean Sherk reflects on storied career, talks regrets, future plans and more (MMAmania exclusive)

via Esther Lin

Check out what's next for Sean Sherk in this exclusive interview

Despite being one of the great lightweights in UFC history, Sean Sherk went out with more of a whimper than a roar.

"The Muscle Shark" captured the UFC Lightweight Title back in 2006 with a bloody unanimous decision victory over Kenny Florian, but a hip injury and an ill-fated drug test derailed what could have been an easy Hall of Fame career.

The Minnesota native last fought in 2010, earning a "Fight of the Night" bonus in a captivating battle against Evan Dunham and after three years of trying to get healthy enough to compete again, he finally called it quits earlier this week.

The 40-year old finished with a career mark of 36-4-1, and he spoke to MMAmania.com about his hip injury, his regrets and a reflection on some wild and crazy moments from his career in this exclusive interview.

Check it out:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You took three years before making the decision to retire and we've discoved it was because of the hip injury. Was that just your competitive spirit wanting to get one last fight before calling it quits?

Sean Sherk: Well, yeah, I would like to fight forever. I've said that for many, many years now. If I could fight forever, I would. Obviously that's not an option. You look at every athlete at every point in time in the history of time, they've had to walk away from the sport eventually. You just have to come to terms with that. I wasn't willing to accept the fact that my injury was going to hinder me from fighting again until like you had just mentioned with the hip thing. I was told just two weeks ago that I needed a replacement.

It started off as just a couple torn hips in 2008 and it progressed to the point where I need to completely replace them now, so that's just how it is.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now does it bother you a bit that you didn't get a chance to go out on your own terms, that the decision was made for you by your hips continuing to deteriorate?

Sean Sherk: Well, I kind of feel like I did go out on my own terms. I could fight again, and I'd be in a lot of pain obviously and I wouldn't be 100 percent. I said a long time ago I'd go out when the time was right. I wasn't going to be one of those guys who hung out longer than they should, someone who couldn't walk away from the sport even though they knew they should and they ended up losing a couple times and they were forced to walk away on that note.

I walked away on a high note with a win, with a "Fight of the Night." I walked away ranked number seven in the world immediately after my last fight, so in a way I do feel like I walked away on my own terms.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you wish you'd have had a chance for a golden send-off like Chris Lytle did, where he knew he was going to retire and to get that last fight with all the star treatment, making speeches and all?

Sean Sherk: He deserved it. He went out with "Fight of the Night" and "Submission of the Night." What a great highlight to a great career. He was phenomenal and when I found out he got that, I said he deserved it. Would I have liked for that to happen too? Of course. That'd be great. But it is what it is and I can walk away from this sport knowing I'd accomplished everything I set out to accomplish.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were known for having the most intense hardcore workouts of any fighter. Do you think those workouts were a huge contributing factor to the erosion of your hips?

Sean Sherk: Oh yeah, definitely. I know it was. I know exactly when my hips got torn. I know what I was doing and how it happened. I chose to ignore it and just grind through it and eventually I tore the other one shortly thereafter and I just kept grinding, grinding, grinding. I knew I should have taken a step back but in order for me to win, I had to train a certain way and to be able to step into the Octagon, I had to be 100 percent prepared and my gameplan and my style was always to burn my opponent out, make them want to quit with an aggressive, in-your-face fighting style and the only way you can get that is the way you train. Practice like you train, train like you practice.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Would you have gone back and had the double labrum surgery if you had another chance?

Sean Sherk: I was told back when I first found out they were torn, my doctor actually said, "You can have the surgery but your fighting career will be over. Although you will recover and the pain will go away, you'll lose your mobility, lose your quick twitch, lose your explosion," so more or less, your fighting career will be over after the surgery. Plus you're looking at a full year recovery time on top of that so he said I could do it now and deal with the pain or deal with the pain and do it later. I chose to deal with the pain and do it later.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a guy that's been around for so long and put some great fights dating back to the dark ages, so would you ever consider writing a book? I've heard some of your stories and they're pretty wild.

Sean Sherk: Well, yeah I would. I was actually offered a book deal probably about six years ago and a book deal wasn't what I was looking for at that point in time. I do have a storied life and a career and a lot of things people don't know about me that would surprise them and would help them understand who I am and where I'm coming from. That's something I wouldn't mind telling my story as long as we get the right audience.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there anything you want to get out now that would perhaps help people understand you better?

Sean Sherk: (laughs) Well, not at this time. I've always held a very personal private life. I've kept things near and dear to my heart, my childhood, my past, it's just something I've always chosen to keep to myself. If I had the right audience, I'd be more than happy to tell the story.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): We all know about your affiliation with Training Mask, with coaching and all that, but something new that came out was you've been flipping houses. Can you tell me a little bit about this next stage of your career?

Sean Sherk: Well I've seen a light at the end of the tunnel for a long time now and I knew eventually I was going to have to walk away from MMA. That's where the Training Mask thing came from, it was part of my exit strategy. It was earlier this year that I started flipping houses. I've done five so far this year and I've got several more coming. My goal is to finish 10 before the end of the year. I treat this just like my fighting career, it's all or nothing. I get after it, go hard, set goals and try my best to accomplish them.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There's probably some crazy Sean Sherk fans out there who've seen all your workout videos and when they hear about your flipping houses, they think you're actually rolling houses over like those big tractor tires.

Sean Sherk: (laughs) Exactly. Well I do all the work tearing everything out from the inside of the house. That's my new workout, my new strategy plan.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got a few questions dating back to some past events in your fighting career. This first one took place in 2011 when you were in the UK where you got swarmed by 100 police officers with machine guns. What's your side of that story?

Sean Sherk: (laughs) Well, my side was basically I had no idea what was going on. I was doing a seminar tour in England. I was set to do nine seminars over the course of 10 days and we had a driver taking me from city to city and apparently my driver was driving a car that was used in drug runs and gun runs and I don't know if he had a warrant but the cops were following us and the next thing you know they bombarded the car, a SWAT team and everything. They pulled me out of the car and threw me in cuffs and the whole time I was trying to tell them who I was and why I was there and finally after about 10 minutes of me telling this police officer I had no idea what was going on, he googled my name and found out who I was. Only then did they uncuff me. It was pretty crazy and made for a pretty good story.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): They must have had you confused with Paul Kelly.

Sean Sherk: (laughs) Oh boy.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, this one comes from the fans and it concerns your fight against B.J. Penn. It was a crazy war of words leading up to the fight and you guys had a pretty good rivalry going, they wanted to know what was your reaction to seeing B.J. lick your blood off his gloves?

Sean Sherk: Well I actually didn't see B.J. lick my blood off. I didn't see that happen and I didn't realize it happened until I went back and watched the video. As soon as the fight was over, B.J. walked over to me and he apologized. He said, "I'm sorry for everything I said. I was trying to build up the fight and I believe you that you didn't take what you're accused of taking."

At that time, everything was fine. We actually filmed a TV show two weeks after we fought each other and we hung out for three days and we got along just great.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of what you were accused of taking, do you think the court of public opinion will ever swing into your favor? You passed all the lie detector tests, the supplement company pulled that brand off the market and there were problems with the chain of custody of your sample. What more did you need to do?

Sean Sherk: I definitely feel like I still have something to prove there. Even now, if you punch in my name on a search engine, one of the first things that pops up is steroids. I didn't take the stuff. I took three polygraphs, nobody did that before. I took a blood test and no other fighter did that. I went above and beyond trying to prove my innocence but the issue is when you're battling the commission, they're the judge, jury and executioner. You don't get a fair trial. It's not a neutral person. It's the commission itself who's convicting you. There's absolutely nothing fair about it at all.

It goes to show, though, that as soon as my hearing was over, Quest Laboratories, the people who tested my samples, they were fired shortly after that. Armando Garcia (former CSAC Executive Director) was fired shortly after that for embezzling money so that goes to show the type of person he is and the UFC didn't go back to the state of California for two-three years after that. They were following my hearing and they were the there the entire time and they saw all the problems there and they didn't go back to California for several years after that so the state of California lost millions of dollars in revenue because of that.

I feel like I kind of won in a way, but I just want the people to know that I really did go above and beyond to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I didn't take anything.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, onto more modern situations, what do you make of the current state of the UFC Lightweight divison? Anthony Pettis just dethroned Ben Henderson last weekend, what did you make of that?

Sean Sherk: I didn't see the fight, but I knew it was going to be a tough one based on the last time they fought. I heard he armbarred him in the first round, and that's incredible. He's from Milwaukee and that's amazing, what a dream! I think the lightweight division is the toughest division in the world. It has the most fighters under contract. It's fast, it's explosive and it's just stacked.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you think you'd have fared against someone like Pettis in your physical prime?

Sean Sherk: Well I would have fared well against any one of those guys. I was the top guy in the world in two weight classes. There's no doubt in my mind I'd have fared well against any one of those guys. Unfortunately, it's just speculation and I'll never get a chance to prove that. I think any one of those guys, you ask them, they'd have said the same thing. I was just as good as any one of those guys and just got injured and couldn't do it anymore.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you have any last impressions you want to leave on the MMA world?

Sean Sherk: Well I want to leave my legacy behind as one of the best fighters in the world for a decade. Over the course of 10 years I was one of the best in the world in two weight classes and if anyone looks at my credentials, they speak for themselves. That's all I want to be remembered as, one of the best in the world in my era.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Anything else you'd like to add?

Sean Sherk: Yeah, the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. I started training there back in 1994 right after I saw my first UFC. I always wanted to fight but it wasn't an option at the time because they didn't have the weight classes but Greg Nelson took me as his trainer and I've been loyal to him since 1994. If it hadn't been for all those guys under those walls over the years, I wouldn't be a professional fighter at all.

Also, my family and friends, my support system has been phenomenal. Lastly, to the fans, when you're out there fighting, putting your heart on the line and everyone is on their feet cheering, there's no better feeling in the world that'll beat that.

You can follow Sean on Twitter @SeanSherkUFC.

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