Big opportunities come to those who have gone above and beyond to reach their personal and professional goals in the brutal yet exhilarating world of Mixed Martial Arts. Warriors reaching these astronomical heights is a pleasure to see for the fans and aspiring fighters looking to take their respective journeys to the cage.
Most recently, a warrior has earned a phenomenal opportunity, and hard work has paid off in Next Generation’s Shem Rock, after putting pen to paper with MMA giants OKTAGON MMA.
I caught up with Shem, to gain some insight into what this explosive opportunity means to him, and what the future holds with the European MMA promotions.
Shem Rock (8-1-0) is an English professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Lightweight division, representing Next Generation Liverpool. Shem has competed for Golden Warriors Fighting Championship, Malaysian Fighting Championship, Probellum MMA, Clan Wars, Contenders, Full Contact Contender and has recently signed a contract with European MMA promotion OKTAGON MMA.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, Shem, and also to congratulate you on your recent inclusion to the OKTAGON MMA roster.
“Nice one bro, I’m happy to be doing this interview and even happier to be with OKTAGON.”
I saw you going to the big stage soon, it was quite quick, well deserved though man.
Your determination and willingness to succeed in the brutal yet exhilarating world of Mixed Martial Arts has been an inspiration to many. All the hard work has paid off, as you prepare for the next step of your professional journey.
How did you feel when receiving the call to compete on one of the world’s leading MMA promotions?
“It’s been a long time coming, I’ve trained with some of the best guys in all different countries, and trained all over the world. Now the things I’ve been doing to get noticed and winning fights have paid off, of course it’s good lad. OKTAGON has gave me a great opportunity, and no secret they’re paying well and I’m happy to be there. I still feel like I’m very early on in my career, everyone’s congratulating me, I feel like it’s just another step on the road, I’m not where I wanna be, I’m still hungry.”
I get that mate, you’re still very young, but have smashed every obstacle put in front of you.
“There’s still more to go though.”
Definitely, I’ll be tuning in to OKTAGON to witness your next step.
What was the deciding factor that made you sign on the dotted line?
“There was a few things really like. I got a lot of different offers from a lot of different promotions and I was looking round the board, but OKTAGON was the right fit. I feel like I’ve always fought in different countries all over the world, to now get to fight in different countries in Europe will be quite good. To travel to places I’ve never been before, and they offered me good money so, it’s a path to the UFC eventually. Everything fitted, I’m happy to be with them, and they’re happy to have me so I’m grateful for what’s gonna occur from here now.”
I thought it would be between OKTAGON or Bellator, seems I got it right hahaha.
“You know you’re the only one to have called OKTAGON, or even thought OKTAGON.”
Yeah? I should have put a wager on it with those odds haha. OKTAGON are doing some great things of late, from big celebrity interest as well as their 1 million euros tournament atm.
“I need to get involved in one of these million euros tournaments, don’t I, buy my mum a little mansion.”
Be great to see man, it would shake the roster up.
Your return to the cage back at the tail end of 2022 has been draped in gold. Successfully capturing the Contenders Lightweight Championship at Contenders 33, and most recently the FCC Lightweight Championship at FCC 32.
You seem extremely comfortable at 155lbs is this where the fans can expect to see more of you?
“So I’ve always fought at Featherweight, I’ve always been a big Featherweight, I always thought I was a small Lightweight. After competing at Lightweight a few times, I’ve always trained with big lads anyway because I’m quite tall so I’ve always been able to train with the Middleweights and Welterweights. Honestly lad, I feel Lightweights a better fit for my frame. I can hold more muscles mass, injured less in training and I can eat more, it’s definitely the future. a Catchweight 68 would probably be perfect for me, then I’d still be a big size, but I’m not really bothered about being the smaller man in the fight as the skill-set speaks over it all don’t it.”
100 percent, and you definitely hold a prolific skill-set.
Following your explosive inclusion to FCC 32, was it business as usual over at Next-Gen?
“Yeah, I was back in the gym straight away. Being over Christmas it was a bit hard to train because a lot of places were closed, but every opportunity I had I was going to the gym. When I couldn’t I was still training at home, I’m one of them lad. If I don’t train I just can’t sit still.”
Best way to be mate, always keeping busy.
Looking forward, wherever your path shall take you with OKTAGON MMA, there will be no shortage of potential opportunities in regards to opposition.
Have you taken the time to look through the roster at potential bouts as you prepare to go to war under a new banner?
“Yeah, I’m sitting here thinking they’ve just signed my man from Cage Warriors Samuel Bark. He’s 8-1 and I’m 8-1, he’s come in straight off the bat fighting the Champion. I’m not saying Bark ain’t good but I’ve watched his fights, I’d maul him.”
With back to back Championship victories, I was surprised not to see you jump into a title fight.
“I’m surprised the champion is not defending his belt, he’s fighting at 145lbs against Bark, in a non-title fight as well I don’t get it. You’d think he’d fight the Featherweight champ or defend his belt again.”
Yeah, 100 percent.
“I dunno, each to their own init, but I’ve got my eye on a few people. Whoever the champion is when it’s time for me to fight for it, understandably I’ll have to have a few fights before because of the rankings system, I don’t mind that. But I’ve got my eyes on the belt and whoever has it. I wouldn’t mind fighting an experienced veteran like Ivan Buchinger, he’s had the belt there, fought people like Conor McGregor, a big name so even someone like him. But we’ll see, it’s up to OKTAGON, my management. Whoever’s put in front of me lad, I’m 100 percent ready.”
A great mindset to have mate, laser focused on the ultimate prize.
Your lust for gold shines through like dragon sickness in your quest for glory on the MMA scene, it’s no surprise to see OKTAGON MMA will be no exception.
“Yeah, I already know I’m gonna have 3 fights this year, as long as I’m fit and healthy. I can’t see anyone at the top of my game, I look at that roster and I can’t see anyone dealing with the skill-set I’m gonna come with. So i feel that by the end of the year, 3 fights it’s gotta be a title, and if I get 3 finishes in a row that’s my plan, 3 fights this year and 3 finishes.”
3 fights in a year is a good number, and as you said you’re comfortable at your weight so no gruelling weight cuts will add to the confidence.
“Yeah definitely. Like when I fight at Featherweight, to have 3 or 4 fights in a year is hard on my body because of the cuts. I don’t really get the weight back on me sometimes, so I’m barely active at Featherweight. If you look at my record you’ll see large parts of inactivity, maybe 2 fights a year, the Featherweight cuts aren’t nice.”
You guys are built differently, I don’t personally think I could do it. I’ve seen the strain weight cutting entails.
“I disagree with it to be honest. I think that after we step on the scale we should immediately step into the cage, no food or drink, just step on the scale then immediately go out there and fight. If that was the case, then you’d get less people trying to cut weight because they’d already want to get hydrated so they can perform.”
I completely get where you’re coming from.
It’s been great speaking with you again today Shem, wherever your path shall take you, I wish you all the best mate. I look forward to witnessing your new journey unfold with OKTAGON.
“Yeah man sound, I appreciate it lad. I already know big things are coming, and eventually the UFC. Lad, I just can’t wait to fight with OKTAGON and show my skill-set against some good opponents.”
I can imagine man.
Last but not least, do you have a message for the readers and anybody you’d like to give a shout-out to?
“Shout-out to all the lads at Next-Gen and Shout-out to all my sponsors. My message for the readers, go give me a follow on Instagram @shemrockbjj and follow the journey.”
keep a look out for future announcements from OKTAGON MMA, Shem is definitely wanna miss.