What does it take to become a UFC Hall of Famer? The NFL and MLB consider a nominee’s victories, championships, and various career accomplishments along with any records they may have broken. These statistics don’t carry as much weight in mixed martial arts. Eleven men have been recognized by the UFC for the indelible mark they left, yet three have been linked to steroid use and one, Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis, never competed in the octagon.
With fighters jumping to-and-from various promotions, a decision cannot be reached solely on one’s win-loss record or how long their title reign lasted. In the UFC, a fighter’s impact on the sport outweighs his impact in the record books. And this is where debate for Sean Sherk’s induction into the hall of fame begins.
‘The Muscle Shark’ lost his UFC Lightweight Championship to B.J. Penn at UFC 184, one of the few pay-per-view events he headlined. It would come to symbolize a changing of the guard as Penn remained a contender while Sherk lasted just three more fights before retiring. He was instrumental, if not vital, to the success of the UFC’s lightweight division and paved the way for fighters like Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. Without Sherk, there may not be a lightweight division.
Focusing solely on numbers, he has 36 MMA victories; more than all but two hall of famers (Dan Severn, Matt Hughes) and his winning percentage is second only to Hughes and Royce Gracie. By all accounts, Sherk should be a lock for the UFC Hall of Fame. So why may we never see his name alongside the legends of the octagon? One word: steroids.
Sherk was suspended in July 2007 after defeating Hermes Franca at UFC 73. The California State Athletic Commission suspended him for one year after it was discovered that his pre-fight drug test contained Nandrolone, a banned substance. Sherk ran into trouble again in May 2009 after he ditched a post-fight urine test. While he came out clean, Sherk was suspended for 45 days for his actions.
Alleged steroid users Stephen Bonner and Ken Shamrock have been inducted into the hall of fame, but they did not face the scrutiny fighters’ face today. Drug testing is more common and the repercussions more damaging. One could argue that the only reason that Bonner was elected into the hall of fame is because his The Ultimate Fighter bout with Forrest Griffin revolutionized the UFC.
For those who were fortunate enough to see Sherk battle Matt Serra at UFC 42, it remains one of the greatest all-around fights in recent memory. Sherk lost the fight, but made a name for himself and was on his way to redefining the lightweight division. If not for steroid allegations, ‘the Muscle Shark’ would be putting the finishing touches on his acceptance speech. Will the election committee be able to overlook these hiccups in an otherwise phenomenal career? Only time will tell.