Steroids in MMA
Which MMA Fighter Will Test Positive For Steroids Next?

Exclusive: Sean Sherk Talks Steroid Allegations, Says BJ Penn “Doesn’t Know What It’s Like” to Train Hard

Sean Sherk isn’t what most would call a fan favorite. Sure, he has his hardcore contingent of supporters, but even when he reigned as the UFC lightweight champ he faced criticism from detractors who found his style of fighting less than enthralling to watch. That criticism reached a fever pitch after a positive steroid test following his title defense against Hermes Franca last summer, which resulted in Sherk being stripped of the title.

“The Muscle Shark” has repeatedly professed his innocence on the steroid charge, filing an appeal with the CSAC and taking repeated polygraph tests to try and clear his name. Now the former UFC lightweight champion talks with Cage Potato about the steroid accusations, his attempts to prove his innocence, and the war of words with current title-holder B.J. Penn, as they prepare to meet in the Octagon at UFC 84. So how’s training going? As we near the fight, are you backing off the really hard training?

Sean Sherk: No, I’m still training hard up until two days before the fight. Still doing everything I normally do, all the cardio, all the hard workouts. That’s the way I’ve always done it for over thirty fights. That’s the way we did it in wrestling and so that’s the way I’m used to doing it.

I imagine by this point you’re pretty sick of being asked about the positive steroid test.

No, I’m used to it. I kind of expect it now.

In that case, let’s get right into it. You’ve maintained your innocence throughout this whole thing. If you didn’t take steroids, what do you think caused the positive test?

I can’t say exactly why it came up positive, but I know that there were definitely some problems with the testing procedures at Quest Laboratories. The way they did their testing, there was some carryover in the machine from previous tests before they tested my sample.

That seems like a pretty big problem to me right there. If there’s carryover in the machine, should you use that machine to do that test? I wouldn’t think so. Their chain of custody was completely shot. They had no chain of custody. Those were the two main issues.

I tested all the supplements I was taking and I did find contamination in one of them, a testosterone booster. I don’t know if that caused it or not, but I was surprised to find contamination in a supplement like that.

Has that made you paranoid about taking supplements in general?

Oh yeah, for sure. I cut the amount of supplements I was taking in half. I was taking about 25 different supplements and I cut that in half. I still feel the same, so I didn’t really need to be taking all those supplements to begin with. I’m just hoping that by cutting my supplements I can decrease the risk of this happening again.

I didn’t know you could go into a store like a GNC and buy something that would have illegal stuff in it, but I guess you can. I was stunned. I didn’t know that. I’ve also started doing my own pre-testing, which I’ll do before every fight now just to be sure.

Even as you maintain your innocence, the court of public opinion in MMA seems to be largely against you. What do you think you could do to clear your name that would satisfy your detractors?

You know, I don’t know. I took the polygraph test three times to try and prove that I was telling the truth. I know they say polygraphs aren’t 100% reliable, but after three tests you’d think that if I was lying it would have shown up in at least one of them. I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve always said that and tried to prove that. I have absolutely nothing to hide.

I’ve done everything I can do to clear my name. It’s up to each individual to look at the facts and decide for themselves whether they believe me or not. The problem is that a lot of people don’t bother to look at the facts first. They just hear positive test and they look at me and what I’ve done and think, ‘Oh, he’s got to be on something.’

I’m not. People have to decide that for themselves, but the people who know me and the people who look at the facts will see for themselves that I’m telling the truth. Other than that, I can’t worry about what people who don’t know me and don’t even look at the facts before making up their minds think. That’s out of my hands.

The rivalry between you and B.J. Penn seems pretty intense. You’ve said that you think there’s some quit in him, he’s said that you’ve been broken before and can be broken again. It seems like in this back and forth, both of you are counting on a long, grueling fight where it will come down to who can outlast the other guy. Do you think that’s accurate?

[B.J.] probably thinks so. He probably thinks he wants this to go to the later rounds, but he doesn’t. He’s never had good cardio before. That’s not something you just wake up with one morning. He’s never trained hard for a fight. He doesn’t know what it’s like. He’s not going to just decide at this point in his career to start training hard.

I’ve seen quit in his eyes. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen him where he just decides, ‘Fuck it, I can’t do any more.’ In the Hughes fight when he just came out in the third round and just laid there getting beat on, that’s pathetic. That’s the quit in him right there.

He says I’ve been broken, I’ve never been broken. I’ve never tapped out in a fight. I’ve never quit in a fight. I’ve had one fight stopped on a TKO and that was against Georges St. Pierre, who’s the welterweight champ right now. B.J. has no room to say that I’ve been broken. He’s the one who’s been broken.

You talk about B.J.’s cardio, which has been an issue for him in the past. But then he looked in shape in his last fight against Joe Stevenson. You don’t think he could have turned a corner there as far as his training and work ethic? You think it’s indicative of his character?

Definitely, I think that’s a character thing. That’s not something you can change. It’s not just about training hard and getting good cardio in the gym. It’s what you can do in the fight, if you’ll quit when it gets tough. That’s not just cardio. You’re either the kind of person who’s never going to quit or you’re not. You have to have that inside of you and I don’t think B.J. does.

If you beat B.J. Penn and reclaim the UFC lightweight title, do you think that will silence some of your critics, or do you think that some people will always be skeptical of you?

There’s both sides on the spectrum. It will silence some people. Some people will still be skeptical. Some will support me no matter what and some will support B.J. no matter what.

It’s out of my hands, really. I still feel like that belt is mine. I don’t think it should have ever been taken from me in the first place. I’m looking forward to the chance to get it back and I think that this is the fight where afterwards you’ll finally be able to say who’s the real lightweight champion. I can only focus on doing what I can do. The rest, what people say or what they think, that’s all out of my hands.

A lot of people seem to dislike you because they don’t care for your fighting style, which relies on wrestling and ground-and-pound. They call you a lay-and-pray fighter, they say you’re boring. What do you say to that? Do you hear that criticism, and does it affect you?

Basically, I think there are fans for everyone, for every fighting style. That’s what’s great about MMA. There are people who love my style, the wrestler style with the great cardio, the never-quit mentality. Some people don’t. Some people think it’s boring. You can never please everybody. That’s something I had to learn.

When I first started I used to read everything people said about me on the internet. I’d read the good stuff and then I’d read the bad stuff and it would get to me. Finally I just had to stop reading it at all because if I didn’t I felt like I was eventually going to hate this sport. Now I don’t read any of it. I stay away from it and focus on what I have to do. It’s much better this way, and I think that’s how you have to look at it to be a fighter at this level. You can’t let that stuff bother you.

Thanks for talking with us, Sean. Anything you’d like to add?

I just want to thank everyone who stood by me, all my family and friends and my teammates and my sponsors. The people who always believed in me and were always there. I appreciate it.

(-Ben Fowlkes)


Cagepotato Comments

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Sherk's Mom- May 13, 2008 at 7:09 pm
Put him on the fence and snap that rubber band. then drop the 'bows!!! and lick bj's blood off your gloves....then when it is over. punch him again right in the sack.
Joe Son- May 13, 2008 at 12:07 pm
Iceman (Liddell or Val Kilmer in Top Gun?), I'm not trying to bash Kalib Starnes. But you can't say the broken foot excuses everything. He still had two hands. He had another foot. He didn't try to mount any offense with any of them. As others have pointed out he had no problem backpedaling for three rounds on that broken foot.

You're right that if I broke my foot I probably wouldn't want to kick anymore, or do anything anymore aside from go home and put ice on it and drink beer. That's just one of many reasons I don't get paid to fight on TV. Kalib Starnes did get paid and that's the difference. Notice I say 'did'.
theiceman- May 13, 2008 at 6:47 am
Joe Son Says:

May 13th, 2008 at 11:09 am
So you’re saying that his(Kalib Starnes) performance would have been fine if his foot were really broken? Because I happen to believe that even if his foot was broken, it’s no excuse for running all night. He claims to have x-rays proving it was broken, but that’s not the point.

Why dont you break your foot and then go and kick something really hard over and over and over and see how long it takes before you start to not want to kick something really really hard. You are one of these guys who probably wouldn't beat his way out of a wet paper bag but who expects everyone else to be's what you call a back seat driver!!
Kim Couture is a cunt- May 13, 2008 at 2:17 am
@ Maud,

Thankyou. What a disgrace. @ the senior Potato, great interview, gotta love the fact you get the people we wanna hear from, disgraced or not, props.

maud- May 12, 2008 at 11:17 pm
25 different supplements. No fucking wonder you failed jackass. Oh great, now your down to only 12. Good for you.
Kim Couture is a cunt- May 12, 2008 at 8:31 pm
Sean Sherk is a fuckin black eye on MMA. His record is 0 - 0 - 0. If he beats BJ he will be 1 - 0. He is a joke, his pathetic, constant denial is disgusting. I hope once he loses they send him packing. Shame on you Sean, you disgraced you and your family.
SGT. 606- May 12, 2008 at 6:55 pm
I believe the Joe Stevensons cardio rivals Sean Sherks cardio, and we all remember what happened there. I think that BJ will pull of a victory unless he gets injured.
Vrax- May 12, 2008 at 6:30 pm
Good interview. I wonder why there were no questions about how he has switched his training to try and deal with BJs flexibility and BJJ skill. Who is he bringing in? What's new in his routine, that sort of thing.

Also Penn did break a rib, he had it dislocate from the connective tissue on the spine. That's a much more painful injury, having had both myself. That said, I agree 100% with whomever said that this means Hughes broke it, and thus made BJ quit.

Also I'd like to see an exhibition match between Cock Chestnar and Kalib starnes. Cock would catch him if he ran, see.
Bdizzle- May 12, 2008 at 5:40 pm
CP Great interviews.
Can we ask the fighters what ring girl that they want to have babies with?
MMA fan- May 12, 2008 at 5:20 pm
One thing you have to admit is Sherk does have great cardio and that has been a problem for BJ. As for talent I think Bj wins that hands down. Bj needs to choke Sherk out by the end of the second round. If it goes to the later rounds its Sherks fight to lose.

Prediction: Penn wins by submission in the late second round.
Joe Son- May 12, 2008 at 5:09 pm
So you're saying that his performance would have been fine if his foot were really broken? Because I happen to believe that even if his foot was broken, it's no excuse for running all night. He claims to have x-rays proving it was broken, but that's not the point.

My point is that injuries happen. Quitting because you get hurt in a fight is still quitting. BJ's rib didn't get broken by magic. Hughes broke it. If that's what made him quit, then that would mean Hughes made him quit.

I like BJ and all, but everyone has excuses when they lose. It doesn't mean you get to hide behind them.
Jemaleddin- May 12, 2008 at 5:01 pm
@Joe Son: Yeah, if we believed the Kalib story. We don't because none of his kicks landed in the first round though. Didn't you watch the clips that were circulating? Or notice that he didn't favor either foot all night?
Anonymous- May 12, 2008 at 4:41 pm
I agree with Jeff. No one ever boos a flying knee. Just ask Gilbert Yvel.
Joe Son- May 12, 2008 at 4:35 pm
"And Ben: are you unaware of the broken rib that BJ suffered in the second Hughes fight, or were you just happy to let him keep telling that bullshit story about seeing “quit” in BJ’s eyes? I’d really like somebody to call him on that."

By that logic, Jermaleddin, Kalib Starnes was justified in his poor showing against Nate Quarry. He had a broken foot, right?
Jeff- May 12, 2008 at 4:20 pm
I believe you Sean!

Push the pace and don't forget that single legs don't work on BJ.

Flying knee off the break please. No fight is boring if it begins with a flying knee.
C-Bus Allstar- May 12, 2008 at 4:19 pm
CP, you guys are definitely good for at least one thing, and that one thing is getting interviews that MATTER. I.E. Randy Couture, Monte Cox (?), and now Sherk..

Keep up the good exclusives, I'm diggin it.

Sherk is done for. BJ Penn has the potential to dominate his division like Anderson Silva dominates his. BJ Penn is just that much better than everyone else.

Gonna take it back to elementary school here:

Sean Sherk is to BJ Penn, as Rich Franklin is to Anderson Silva

Toner Breath- May 12, 2008 at 4:19 pm
great interview CP, great to hear his side of the story.

Can't wait to watch the fight, BJ is gonna have his hands full. Sherk is NO JOKE (his record speaks for itself).
Jemaleddin- May 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm
Nice interview - did he have any problem sitting still with his PANTS ON FIRE? (because he's a liar, you see? Get it? No? Damn.)

Seriously, Sean: we get it. You're not the kind of guy who can make a mistake and admit to it. A lot of guys are like that. We call them crybabies.

And Ben: are you unaware of the broken rib that BJ suffered in the second Hughes fight, or were you just happy to let him keep telling that bullshit story about seeing "quit" in BJ's eyes? I'd really like somebody to call him on that.
BIG CHRIS- May 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm
CP Nice job on the interveiw.....I cannot wait to see this fight...I hope BJ beats this guy, but more than that I just want to see an all out war!!
BIG CHRIS- May 12, 2008 at 3:50 pm
WOW cstain-I am sorry but that had to be the most Legitimately retarded thing i have ever read, now wipe the drool from your mouth, tighten your helmet up, and go stand outside and wait for the short bus, cause you my man.... are retarted!!
Oss- May 12, 2008 at 3:49 pm
Dunno what people want with MMA. If you want spectacular knockouts go watch some Japanese amature show with competitors who never trained going up against professionals. I for one like violence, not humiliation.
godzillad- May 12, 2008 at 3:45 pm
The people that say Sherk is boring would say submission grappling is boring too, which means those people are retarded.
Oss- May 12, 2008 at 3:41 pm
Who the fuck is Shawn Sherk?
MKXii- May 12, 2008 at 3:40 pm
It's Sean, fyi.
cstain- May 12, 2008 at 3:36 pm
Truthfully shawn you look like a roid freak. I dont know whether you did or did not cheat, but to be honest i think you will have to do everything including cheating to beat the prodigy. i hate you both but Bj has your number. Shawn Sherk is dead. But will be reborn in Elite Xc