“You’ve got to beat the champ to be the champ.” — Sean Sherk

The main event between BJ Penn and Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk at this weekend’s (May 24) “UFC 84: Ill Will” event is about much more than the UFC lightweight (155-pound) title. It’s about Sherk’s quest to regain the trust of his fans and the respect of his peers. Having been stripped of the belt he won in 2006 on a unanimous decision over Kenny Florian in UFC 64 for a failed drug test—a result he still vehemently refutes—Sherk is training harder than ever to reclaim what he feels is rightfully his.

To do that, he’ll have to walk through BJ “The Prodigy” Penn, who won the lightweight belt with a win over Joe Stevenson last January in a bout that was originally slated as an interim championship bout.

But Sherk isn’t walking into the Octagon this weekend with an air of entitlement about him. He’s busting his ass everyday at the Athletic Performance, Inc., in Minnesota, writing his ticket back to the top of the UFC lightweight food chain in sweat. His training regimen, known as Caveman Training, is perfect for the guy looking to shoot, punch, kick and ground-and-pound for five, five-minute rounds in the cage. M&F Senior Science Editor Jim Stoppani says that this type of specificity of training is fantastic for a mixed martial artist.

“With this type of workout, he has a heart rate zone to shoot for,” he says. “He is aiming to keep his heart rate during the rounds at about 90-95% of his max heart rate. It basically tries to mimic what he’s doing in the fight, so it builds strength, power and endurance, which are the three things he’ll rely on during the fight.

“It not only targets the specific muscles he’ll use when punching, kicking, shooting, throwing and grappling, but it also conditions the muscles specifically to do what he’ll need them to do during a fight which is to be strong, explosive, and have endurance. And to top it off, it’s specific to the time component of his actual fight—five minutes with one minute of active recovery. After several months of training this specifically he should be able to maintain good strength and power for all five minutes of all five rounds. I hope BJ Penn has a good plan, because he won’t tire Sherk out, or out strength him.”

Strength, power, impeccable conditioning and the crazy drive to get his belt back—is Sean Sherk ready for the bright lights of UFC 84? Unfortunately for BJ Penn, it appears so.

M&F: Do you feel like you’re fighting to take something from BJ Penn that was never really his to begin with?

Sherk: To an extent, I feel like I’m fighting to get my belt back. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that the belt was taken back from me for something I didn’t do. And if I win this fight, I’ll be two-time UFC lightweight champion and that has a nice ring to it.

M&F: What are your personal thoughts about BJ?

Sherk: He’s taken some cracks at me and taken things past just building the fight. So personally, I don’t like him. I think he’s cocky, he’s arrogant and I don’t think he carries himself well as a professional athlete.

M&F: So do you think he belongs in the Octagon with you?

Sherk: Oh yeah, definitely. He’s one of the best guys out there. He has a lot of talent. It’s gonna be one of the best fights of the year. The show’s sold out and people have wanted to see this for a long time. I think it’s gonna be one for the ages.

M&F: Do you have any predictions on how the fight might go?

Sherk: I think it’s gonna be a fast-paced fight. He wants to come out and finish this thing early. He has to—the longer it goes, the worse it gets for him. He’s gonna come out fast and all he’s gonna end up doing is just gonna blow his wad. Then somewhere in the second or third round, he’s not going to have anything left and I’m just going to be getting warmed up.

M&F: Is that because your conditioning is better than any of the guys in your division?

Sherk: I work my butt off. My conditioning coach, Scott Ramsdell, puts me through hell. And I put myself through hard work, too. I go above and beyond what’s expected of me because I want to win fights. That and my diet are really second to none. This is a 24/7 commitment—it’s not just go to the gym, come home and take a break. I put everything I have into it.

M&F: Scott is the one who brought Caveman Training—a series of strength, speed and power building exercises divided up into five, five-minute rounds—into your routine. What do you think about this type of training and how has it helped you?

Sherk: After the first day I worked out with him, I realized that this was something I needed to incorporate into my program. That’s all I needed. Before that, I was swimming, running stairs, doing bleachers for my conditioning. I still do all that stuff, now I’ve just added API (www.athleticperformanceinc.biz). I’m always kinda skeptical. In this industry, you meet a lot of people and you get a lot of people coming up to you—they know how to do this, they know how to do that—but then I always ask ‘Well, what are your credentials? What do you do that makes you think I’m the one you should be with? I’ve always been standoffish. And the best way to convince me of something is for you to prove it, and he did.

M&F: What do you feel Caveman Training has brought to your game?

Sherk: It’s stepped up my conditioning even better than it was before. It’s made me faster, stronger, more explosive. He’s got a 5,000 square foot facility. We’ve got incline trainers, treadmills—everything you can possibly imagine to make someone’s day hell.

M&F: Do you think more mixed martial artists should train this way?

Sherk: It’s a big advantage. And if somebody I’m fighting isn’t doing it, they’re at a disadvantage.

M&F: You’re 34 now. How has your training had to change to keep up with age?

Sherk: Unfortunately, I have had to change a little bit. I’ve been really fortunate that my body is pretty durable. I’ve only had a couple of major injuries in 28 years. I’ve only had one surgery. I’ve got some really nagging injuries but nothing I can’t deal with. I had never seen a chiropractor or gotten a massage until I was 28, 29 years old—now I do that stuff three times a week. I do a lot of repair work on my body, which keeps me going day to day.

M&F: So I imagine this comes in handy because of how hard and how often you train?

Sherk: Yes. I mean, three days a week I work out three times a day, two days a week I have two workouts a day. Wednesday, I do one light workout. Monday and Tuesday, I’m doing threes, a light one on Wednesday, two Thursday, three Friday and Saturday, then Sunday off. So I spend a lot of time rehabbing between workouts. I’ll get a workout in and then I’ll head to the chiropractor, go get acupuncture, I’ll get muscle therapy, stem machines, then I’ll get another workout in, then come home and I’ve got all my equipment at home and I’ll work on stuff at home.

M&F: What weight do you walk around at when you’re not preparing for a fight?

Sherk: When I’m not training, during my off-time, I’m about 180. My training weight, when I start training and my diet, I’m at 175 but I’m eating six times a day to keep that weight. If I fall off from that, I just eat more.

M&F: Do you know what your bodyfat is?

Sherk: Right now, about a week out from a fight, I’m about 5% but I never get above 10%. I don’t get fat.

M&F: When you’re training do you have a set diet?

Sherk: I have a set diet and I try to eat somewhere over 3,000 calories but that’s tough when you eat as clean as I do. I mean it’s hard to hit 3,000 calories when you’re eating fruit, vegetables and oatmeal all day long.

M&F: What do you do for protein?

Sherk: Fish and chicken, and then I do steak once a week. But I take protein supplements as well. I usually have a couple of protein shakes a day.

M&F: Do you take any other supplements?

Sherk: Multivitamins, glutamine, creatine, aminos—just basic stuff.

M&F: Anything else you want your fans to know about this fight?

Sherk: This is a fight that the fans have wanted to see for a while. It’s gonna be an explosive fight. We both feel like we’ve got a hand on that belt. We’ll find out who the real champion is on May 24. And I also want to thank all the fans who have supported me through everything, thick and thin. I also want to thank the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy and all my sponsors—LG Sports Marketing, MMA Overload, Island Supplements, Soyo Inc., Warrior Wear, Affliction and MTX Audio.

Sean Sherk
The Muscle Shark
Record: 36—2—1
Height: 5’6″
Fight weight: 155 pounds (lightweight)
Date of Birth: August 5, 1973
Styles: Combat submission wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Titles: Former UFC Lightweight Champion
Notable wins: Unanimous decisions over Kenny Florian (UFC 64) and Hermes Franca (UFC 73)

Sherk will tangle with BJ Penn for the UFC Lightweight Championship on Saturday, May 24 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada at 7 pm PT/10 pm ET. For more information on this match-up, video of Sean Sherk working out and more about the exciting undercard, or for pay-per-view ordering info, visit www.UFC.com.

For more information on Sean Sherk, visit his personal website at www.seansherk.com.

To find out more about the Athletic Peformance Inc., visit www.athleticperformanceinc.biz.

Will Sherk reclaim his title? Vote on how you think the main event will go by clicking here.