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UFC will not strip Sean Sherk of Lightweight title

By Zach Arnold | November 2, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Dana White will not strip Sean Sherk of his UFC Lightweight title.

Sean Sherk is going to remain the UFC’s lightweight champion, but B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson will fight for a lightweight belt at UFC 80 in January in Newcastle, England, UFC president Dana White said Friday.

White said he’s not going to strip Sherk of his lightweight championship because he is fed up with the California Athletic Commission’s handling of Sherk’s steroids case.

White had vowed to strip Sherk of the title, but said Friday that he no longer plans to do so.

“The way this whole thing has been handled has been a mess,” White said.

There are some serious ramifications for White’s decision. The most serious ramification is that UFC, the largest MMA promotion in the world, is now publicly challenging the credibility of the California State Athletic Commission. If the CSAC appeals board rejects Sherk’s appeal and White allows Sherk to continue as Lightweight champion, there will be some major issues that will have to be addressed.

First, it will be a virtual declaration of war against the credibility of the CSAC. How will it effect business long-term as far as UFC running events in California? Second, White is taking a big public risk by defending a fighter who has been accused of taking steroids in a highly-publicized case. UFC has not offered this kind of public relations assistance with any other champion in the company’s history (to my knowledge) in regards to a failed drug test. Third, there will be an outcry for an implementation of a sanctioning body with this story being prime example A to support such a notion.

This is a gamble that Dana White is taking here, but it’s a decision he’s basing off of the power he has in the business right now. How does Hermes Franca feel right now about White’s unequivocable support of Sean Sherk?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 30 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

30 Responses to “UFC will not strip Sean Sherk of Lightweight title”

  1. The Gaijin says:

    Wow…Ballsy move by Dana White – for all the crap I give him, the man definitely has some stones.

    New Era Fighting may have been the first to fire a salvo at the CSAC but this will most certainly be a major groundbreaking move and have a great deal of ramifications on mma in California.

    Your move Mr. Garcia, hopefully you have the paperwork correctly filed away this time.

    One has to say however, had Sherk not been a personal “buddy” of White and the organizations 155 champion – he likely wouldn’t be getting anywhere near this sort of backing (re: Franca). Who’d have thunk Phil Baroni would have played a big role in starting a war between the UFC and the CSAC?!? (I’d imagine had his case not been such a clusterfuck, Zuffa might not have taken the stance they did)

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    Wow…Ballsy move by Dana White – for all the crap I give him, the man definitely has some stones.

    It’s a very questionable move.

    You can’t sit and make the argument that UFC has in the media for so long that “they ran towards regulation” (the Zuffa Myth) and now publicly come out in such a manner and do a pre-emptive strike saying that no matter what the CSAC does, their decision won’t impact your business.

    That’s not running towards regulation, but instead running away from it. You have to take the good with the bad, but White wants his cake and eat it, too.

  3. jeff aka whaledog says:

    I’m very surprised that Dana would attack the CSAC like that. If Sherk is ultimately found to have used steroids, not only will have turned his back on the regulators he will also have allowed a cheater to retain the title.

  4. ilostmydog says:

    If they acquit him I’m behind letting him keep his belt, but if he’s not then it just hurts the legitimacy of the belt and the UFC. It’s ballsy, and I believe that the CSAC is pretty much a group of fuck ups and political appointees that can’t get their heads on straight, but the UFC is going to take some hits in the popular media due to this one.

  5. RL Dookie says:

    I’m no fan of Dana White, but why criticize him for standing up to bad regulation? The possibility of Sherk getting away with cheating hurts the sport way less than letting regulators get away with incompetence and abusing their authority.

  6. If they actually overturn the decision, it will be amazing. I doubt they will do so, but most likely will reduce his sentence. If history is any indication, you can walk into the commission and spout off claims that you had no idea your supplements didn’t contain steroids and get your sentence reduced. Look at John George, he basically came in with ZERO evidence and had his sentence reduced by 8 months and $2000 dollars.

    Sherk will no doubt get a reduction simply based on all of the followup that he has done. Will he get it thrown out? Doubtful. White will look like an idiot, and maybe White is trying to put pressure on the CSAC to throw it out to avoid meticulous scrutiny.

  7. Body_Shots says:

    Besides both being busted for steroids, Franca’s and Sherk’s circumstances couldn’t be anymore different, so I don’t know where you’re going there.

    I wonder how the hell he’s not going to strip him if his suspension is upheld, they’ll basically be tainting their own title. Maybe he has some intuition on how the ruling will go down (if it ever happens), he better hope Sherk’s win his appeal or gets some reduced sentence shit like Baroni.

  8. Michaelthebox says:

    Body_Shots: It taints the title because the CSAC found him guilty of using steroids, but that only holds water if you find the CSAC to be a reliable and trustworthy governing body. Dana is actively calling that into question.

    And I’m inclined to agree with Dana. Running towards regulation is well and good, but the whole point of regulation is that it is quality and consistent. Its looking more and more like the CSAC doesn’t qualify.

  9. Tomer Chen says:

    That’s not running towards regulation, but instead running away from it.

    I don’t know if it’s running away from regulation, per se, given that the belt is not actually something that is officially sanctioned by the CSAC. Technically, Dana White could award the Lightweight belt to himself and it’d be technically acceptable since he ‘owns’ that belt. Of course, it would be silly, just like retaining a belt on a guy who has a steroid ‘conviction’ upheld (if Sean Sherk does), but that’s a call on his end and could effect his belt’s image, not neccessarily signal that he’s going to war with the CSAC (although saying that the CSAC is incompetent, irregardless of whether it’s true, may not help him come licensing time).

  10. I think it may put the Governator into action. Will venues complain about pulled UFC events from the state? It’s a possibility that it could effect business enough to cause an investigation. Unless you are a complete ignorant idiot, the track record of the CSAC is unbelievably inconsistent. There should be some grounds for replacing commissioners. Then again, it’s the CSAC, nobody knows what’s going to happen.

  11. Body_Shots says:

    [Body_Shots: It taints the title because the CSAC found him guilty of using steroids, but that only holds water if you find the CSAC to be a reliable and trustworthy governing body. Dana is actively calling that into question.]

    I agree with you and no doubt the CSAC has been incompetent. But does the UFC really want to publicly go against any athletic commission (no matter how stupid they are)?

    Regulation has always been one of their main selling points to the mainstream (although I believe we’re well past that).

    The funny thing is I think the UFC could possibly shake things up in the CSAC if they went about the right way. But right now it seems more like self serving move than a real condemnation of the commission and Garcia.

  12. garth says:

    Odd that guys like Bonnar, Franca, etc, when testing positive, immediately copped to it and took their lumps. But Sherk yells that he’s innocent, and maybe, to his knowledge, he is, and suddenly the CSAC is incompetent. What about guys who DON’T get caught? If it’s incompetent it’d be just as likely to produce false negatives as false positive, barring some inherent bias in the testing procedure. And that points more towards bias than incompetence.
    I think there needs to be a hard look cast at our testing procedures, and the way they announce it. Athletes are immediately thrown to the wolves, while the testers get a free pass (for the most part). I agree that transparency is necessary in this issue, but SOME privacy should be granted until such time as a solid positive test is issued.
    As for Sherk in particular, he came in with quite high levels of the stuff they were looking at, above and beyond what was considered elevated for a normal athlete. Was the test wrong? False positive? So Dana White is basically willing to go to the matresses over Sherk, does he stop staging events in CA til they figure something out?

  13. Body_Shots says:

    Garth, the CSAC didn’t suddenly become incompetent, it’s been one fiasco after another since they’ve started regulating MMA.

  14. Grape Knee High says:

    It’s still all a bit of a farce.

    What’s the difference whether Sherk has the “official” belt or not? Even if Sherk got stripped, everyone knows damn well he would have gotten first crack at the winner of Penn/Stevenson anyway.

  15. Michaelthebox says:

    Body Shots: It is self-serving, which it damn well should be, since this fiasco is screwing the UFC over massively. Nobility is all well and good, but much better to stand up to incompetence when you benefit by doing so, it makes it more likely you’ll stay the course.

  16. Looks like Franca admitted guilt a little too quickly. I said it in the comments on another site that if I was a promotion and had seen the mishandling and bias of the Sherk and Baroni cases I would be very reluctant to hold an event in California when the east coast is begging for more big MMA events.

  17. Zack says:

    What’s the over/under on how many times Dana changes his mind about this subject in the next 2 weeks?

  18. Zurich says:

    Ugh where is Lorenzo when you need him? Cooler heads must prevail…

  19. Franca could have went in there and cussed out the commission and likely had his suspension reduced after he cited his supplements must have been tainted. That’s how the CSAC works.

  20. The Gaijin says:

    “It’s a very questionable move.”

    Oh I don’t doubt that in the least – I was just saying, it’s pretty ballsy b/c this could either be the stand that needs to be taken against a clearly inept commission or it will blow up in his face (regardless of the nobility of his reasons).

    Sherk got caught cheating red-handed thats something I’m certain of. His ratios were completely off the charts, like 12:1 rather than the normal 2:1 (I’ve tried and eff’d up the math enough times that I will say that he was far higher than one should be – even factoring for genetics and intense training). So even if he did have “tainted supplements”, I’m sorry but I find it impossible to have ingested supps that were “tainted” so much that they gave him the results he pissed out.

  21. The Gaijin says:

    “It’s still all a bit of a farce.

    What’s the difference whether Sherk has the “official” belt or not? Even if Sherk got stripped, everyone knows damn well he would have gotten first crack at the winner of Penn/Stevenson anyway.”

    I’m inclined to agree with Grape – the second he comes off his suspension, he would be “fighting to get his title back” had he been stripped.

    I find it humourous that they’re so ardently standing behind Sherk, but they want nothing to do with Barnett who was in an identical situation….

  22. Zack says:

    Oh delicious!

  23. lynchman says:

    This does not mean that Dana is declaring war. If he used Sherk in a show while Sherk was suspended, that would be a war declaration.

    I think that Dana should have said nothing until this was decided.

    Garcia did indeed fuck up by not handing out of the defense briefing like he was supposed to. That is the cause of the current delay and makes them look amateur.

    If all of the paperwork is found, I don’t see how Sherk will get off/ If some of the paper trail continues to remain unfound, Sherk may indeed get off. Some of it turned up on Wed, but not all of it. If they can’t account for the sample every step of the way, it does make it easier to assume it might have been tainted.

  24. cyphron says:

    Dana’s a idiot. I predict he will recant what he said once Sherk is found guilty.

  25. Fan Futbol says:

    Grape Knee High is right. Even if Sherk were suspended (and stripped by the UFC), he’d get the shot at the winner of Penn-Stevenson as soon as he returned. Of course, that Garcia mishandled the hearing briefs is absolutely ludicrous. That does not speak well of CSAC’s competence.

    Nonetheless, if the CSAC does find Sherk used steroids, White would be a fool not to strip him. It’s not like Sherk sells a lot of tickets/buys — certainly not more than the likely new champ, Penn, or even Tuffer Stevenson — and White would get the PR benefit of looking tough on performance enhancers. The argument that Sherk’s roid use was proven only when he was defending the title (rather than when he won it) is a technicality that White should dispense with. Use of roids should result in loss of the belt.


  26. JThue says:

    I say Stevenson-Penn may still be for THE belt, as this is Dana’s reaction right after the CSAC mess and he clearly wanted to just get it over with and announce the title fight already. Regardless it makes little difference as the champ, interim or not, will next fight sometime in the spring at earliest, and Sherk’s suspension will be up by then(there is no way it hell it isn’t getting reduced). It’s depressing as hell, but that’s how it goes.

    Really when you take a step back and look at it, this isn’t such a bombastic move by Dana White. So what if Sherk keeps the belt – that was White’s call to make anyway, and he isn’t keeping the belt on Sherk because of or in spite of the CSAC, he’s keeping the belt on Sherk because he believes his buddy is innocent, simply on account of being his buddy. So *IF* the statement of the week remains Dana White’s stance, the outcome, in the end, will be no different from what it would have been if he had said nothing. Again, because Sherk is absolutely not, realistically, on a 12-month suspension, and even though Dana White is all mad about the CSAC, ******he is not actually doing- or threatening to do anything that goes against their ruling******

    Yes it is a HUGE issue that Dana White will take a fighter’s word over a drug test result, but that is also old news by now. Nothing new here.

  27. dmp says:

    The CSAC looks really bad right now. What a bunch of screw ups. Franca has to kicking himself for being honest about what he did.

  28. Sherk is guilty of what he’s accused of: failing to provide a test that would come back clean.

    Dana’s being stupid saying that he won’t strip the title, but at this point, really can you blame him? That fight was in fucking JULY! By the time they get to the next continued appeal date, it will have been four months since the fight. The suspension started back then. Do you really think he’s going to bother vacating the title for eight months? It’s not worth the effort, he can’t even line up the fights to establish a new champion in the time it will take for Sherk to be back in the cage.

    There was no reason to give them until Halloween, and the idea that they needed MORE time is just stupid.

  29. white ninja says:

    rationalise it all you want – something tells me that the mainstream media isnt going to buy into this one

    dana is making a big mistake


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