In 2018, after three straight losses, the UFC cut ties with heavyweight Chase Sherman. Like many other fighters who get that news, Sherman immediately started planning how to get back to the big show. Although, that’s where his path deviates a bit from the standard fighter. Sherman found himself in the realm of bare knuckle boxing where he not only competed, but won the coveted Police Gazette American Heavyweight Title.
The detour itself sounds pretty special – and Sherman did in fact enjoy it. However, make no mistake about it, his path into bare knuckle boxing was only really about one thing.
“There’s a rich history of it [in my hometown], and I really enjoyed that about it,” Sherman said. “But really it was the money. I was trying to stay busy and active with MMA. Most fighters through regional and local MMA shows don’t get paid enough to support yourself, but you have to take those fights in order to get back into a bigger promotion like the UFC.”
Sherman found many positives about his time boxing. Not only did he get to win a storied title, but he feels his hand-eye coordination went way up. He also noted a change in his timing and his ability to be precise (largely due to the fear of breaking his hand without a glove on it).
Despite all of that, the time itself was not a good one. Sherman dealt with financial insecurity with the time away as well as some health scares that put him in a bad place mentally and physically.
“I was in a dark place when I got cut from the UFC the first time. Me and my family, we had a nice home and I had to pick up and move out of there. The area that I could afford to live was not in a really good area. My fiance and our son stayed at home with her parents because I didn’t want them to have to live there,” he reflected with an emotional note in his throat. Combined with the struggle to get consistent fights, times were not getting better for Sherman and his family. “Two nights before I got the phone call, I got on my knees for the first time in a long time and I prayed – and I prayed hard. I was like ‘I need some help. I need help. Please help me.”
And those prayers were answered.
“My manager called me literally two days later and was like ‘hey, what are you doing May 13th? I was like ‘I don’t know. Probably working – I’m at the fire department,” Sherman said, unaware that the UFC was even holding events at the time due to the pandemic. “He said ‘What about your fight? You just signed a four-fight deal with the UFC. You fight May 13th in Jacksonville.”
The time spent away from the UFC and the trials and tribulations that faced Sherman and his family, left a lasting impact on him. Not only were his boxing skills better than they had ever been, but he found that his mindset could not be more different than it was in the past.
“It rewires my whole brain. Beforehand I was so worried and consumed with not losing… I would get to fight week and I wouldn’t want to leave the hotel room. My nerves were shot. I wouldn’t want to eat,” he recalled. “This time, I was like if I lose, I lose, but I’m going to show the world what I’m capable of and I’m going to have fun and enjoy myself… I remembered the reason why I got into the sport is because I loved it and I enjoyed it. I didn’t get into the sport to be like ‘yeah, I’m going to go win a bunch of fights’. I just love to fight and love to compete in its most natural, raw form.”
In the cage wasn’t the only place he decided he was going to be himself either – he carried it to every portion of fight week and beyond.
“We were clowning around having a good time all week. Hell, I went surfing the day before the fight – it was probably a terrible idea,” he laughed. “I’ve never surfed before in my life, I didn’t know how exhausting it was. But that’s just kind of where I was – nothing was going to stop me from enjoying myself.”
Sherman notes that even through some of the tough times during this pandemic, he’s felt no problems maintaining this new relaxed state. He doesn’t feel tempted to worry or in fear of what’s to come – because for him, he’s faced some of the worst.
Now he hopes this new embracing leads to more success in the cage. He’ll try to duplicate that result for the first time when he faces former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC Vegas 24 this Saturday. The bout will be featured on the ESPN+ main card.
You can listen to the entire audio of this interview at 2:38.
You can also catch Sherman’s full UFC Vegas 24 media day appearance below.