Friday, July 20, 2007

More on The Muscle Jerk

Disclaimer: I don’t really think Sean Sherk is a jerk, but it rhymes nicely.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how damaging Sean Sherk’s positive test result really is.

First and foremost, Sherk is (or was) a world champion and was therefore in a position to effectively promote the UFC, the lightweight division, and the sport of mixed martial arts. Instead, he sullied it.

Most of all, he dealt a damaging blow to the UFC lightweight class. To the credit of Dana White and the fratelli Fertitta, the UFC's 155-lb. stable has risen back to prominence.

Ever since Sherk defeated Kenny Florian to become the UFC’s top 155-lb. fighter last October, the division has exploded with young talent, the return of BJ Penn, and a number of unforgettable matches. Roger Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia, Frankie Edgar vs. Tyson Griffin, Clay Guida vs. Tyson Griffin, Din Thomas vs. Clay Guida, and Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher are just a few that come to mind immediately. Should Sherk be stripped of his title – and he most likely will be - a vacant title or an interim champ belies an exceptionally talent-laden, competitive division.

Furthermore, in the words of the immortal Ric Flair, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man!" You’d be hard-pressed to find a fight fan who disagrees with Flair’s assessment, and I’m certainly not one of them. Unfortunately, it looks as if the next UFC lightweight champion will be the man without ever having beaten the man.

My biggest problem with Sherk - aside from his wanton cheating and running afoul of the law – is that he had almost 9 months to rehab after shoulder surgery (he had a tear and a cyst). If the injury facilitated the use of anabolic steroids – even after nearly a year of inactivity! – why not just let the UFC know of his condition?

After all, Hermes Franca said that his bum ankle prevented him from training as effectively as he would’ve liked, so rescheduling Sherk vs. Franca due to injury on both ends would certainly not be the end of the world, especially considering the already “stacked” card that UFC 73 boasted. Come to think of it, without Sherk vs. Franca, we probably would been shown the Frankie Edgar fight!

In an interview before his UFC 73 fight with Franca, Sherk spoke genuinely about his injury. In light of recent news, the following statement eerily suggests Sherk's setroid use:

There was a lot of pressure I put on myself to get back sooner. I don’t like sitting on the sidelines. I’m a fighter. I don’t want to be the guy sitting on the couch watching all these other guys fight on TV and I’m eating potato chips. I want to get in there. I want to fight and defend my belt. I want to make some money. I want to train. I’m not used to sitting on the sidelines watching my training partners’ train, which I had to do unfortunately for eight-nine weeks. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to get back in there, get back in the gym and I spent a lot of time rehabbing. I was actually back on the mat 10 weeks after the surgery, which blew my physical therapist away.

I, for one, do not sympathize with Sherk having to helplessly sit back and watch other fighters train and compete. The "pressure" he put on himself to get "back on the mat" smacks of desperation, and the desperate choices he made (according to his urine samples) may very well keep him out of action longer than he or anyone else would like.

Sean Sherk is looked up to as a fighter, as a champion, and as a father. I can only hope that news of steroid abuse will no longer mar the significant accomplishments of Sherk, of the UFC, and of mixed martial artists around the world.

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