Kyle Shiely

Kyle Shiely has spent the last 10 years studying the sport and business of Mixed Martial Arts. As editor of the No Holds Barred e-newsletter, he's one of the early MMA journalists. He is a licensed MMA judge for the state of Minnesota. Read more about Kyle Shiely

Sean Sherk set to return to the Octagon

Posted by: Kyle Shiely Updated: September 24, 2010 - 12:25 AM


Former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk(Former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk takes a break from training to answer questions)


On a Friday afternoon in September, former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk walked into the Minnesota Martial Art Academy facility in Maple Grove and within minutes he was already on the mats, getting down to business.

With barely enough time to take his shirt and shoes off, Sherk and his training partner, UFC fighter and former University of Minnesota wrestler Nik Lentz, quickly go to the back of the gym and take to the mat, where Sherk struggles as he continuously tries to pass Lentz’s half guard.

After about five minutes, the horn sounds, and Sherk gets a one-minute break to catch his breath before a fresh grappler is brought in to continue the workout.

45 minutes and multiple sparring partners later, Sherk breaks from his training and steps into another room to whip up a quick protein shake in the blender, which he proceeds to chug down in about two minutes.

“I feel I’ve got this whole thing down to a science now,” Sherk jokes.

The St Francis, Minn. born fighter is in the final stretches of an 18-week training camp that culminates this Saturday night when he faces Evan Dunham (11-0) at UFC 119 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This will be the first time the 37-year-old fighter has stepped into the Octagon in 16 months.

“I haven’t been sitting on the couch eating potato chips. I’ve been rehabbing,” Sherk said.

Sherk, who holds an official record of 33-4 with 1 draw, has been forced to withdraw from two fights in the last year, first a match with Gleison Tibau at UFC 104 and then again last March, when he was scheduled to face Clay Guida at the first UFC on Versus special.

“I’d never had to pull out of a fight before until last year I pulled out of two fights back-to-back. Which was very strange for me,” Sherk said. “I’ve fought injured many many times.”

“I’ve fought with torn shoulders, separated feet, torn knees, torn everything. And I’ve always fought through it,” Sherk said.

“I’m getting to a point now that the injuries are setting me back so far that I feel like it is not in my best interest to fight at 70%. I want to fight at 100%.”

Doctors told Sherk his injuries would require surgery, but he decided against it. “Surgery wasn’t an option because the doctor told me I’d never recover 100% again. So I decided to rehab those injuries," he added.

Sherk isn’t worried that the layoff will affect the fight.

“I don’t think ring rust will be an issue. I’ve been in the cage 11 years. This is my 43rd fight. Wrestled competitively my whole life before that, so ring rust won’t be an issue.” Sherk said. “I’m not going to forget how to fight overnight.”

With 43 fights under his belt, Sherk has a major experience advantage over up-and-comer Dunham.

“When you’re fighting, experience is obviously big," he said."You’ve seen and done everything. You’ve been in these positions. You know how to act and react to every position you’re in.”

It doesn’t just make a difference in the cage though, according to Sherk.

“Experience also plays out in training camps. It plays out in my diet, my preparations, my supplementation, my rest, my training partners. Experience comes into play in every aspect of this game," he said. "I leave no stones unturned, and when I step into the octagon I feel very very confident.”

As far as his opponent on Saturday night, Sherk said Dunham is a three-dimensional fighter, without any weaknesses, but “he’s never fought anyone like me before. I’m going to put some real pressure on him, I’m going to push the pace like he’s never felt."

Sherk said he is better in every aspect. "I’ve got more experience, so I think I’ve got a lot more to offer him than he does for me," he said. "I’ll just grab onto him and push the pace and we’ll see what happens."

Dunham, 28, fights out of the Xtreme Couture camp in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a southpaw and holds a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. He’s 4-0 in the UFC and is coming off of split decision victory over Tyson Griffin in June.

Should he win on Saturday, Sherk feels he is still one fight away from being a championship contender. And while his eyes are firmly set on championship gold, there is one guy in particular he’d like to fight in another weight class.

“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t mind fighting Matt (Hughes) again. I consider Matt a friend of mine," Sherk said. "He’s come here and train before. We had a great fight five or six years ago for the welterweight title. I think we squared off again, a lot of fans might want too see that." 



(Sean Sherk)



 If you want more on the Sherk-Dunham fight and a look at UFC 119, check out the video we did yesterday with myself, Myron Medcalf and Tom Horgen, including some exclusive footage from Sherk's training camp. You can find the video at this link here.

Gopher Star Cole Konrad victorious Thursday Night

Posted by: Kyle Shiely Updated: September 18, 2010 - 12:50 AM

Cole “The Polar Bear” Konrad vanquished another foe Thursday Night, edging one step closer to championship gold. 

Konrad (6-0) defeated the previously unbeaten Damian Grabowski (13-1) by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27) at  Bellator 29 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The fight was one of his most action packed fights to date, with Konrad dominating the majority of the fight, taking down Grabowski at will and tying him up on the mat for most of the 15 minute fight.

This was Konrad’s most active fight today, with referee Jeremy Herzog standing up both fighters multiple times when the action stalled on the mat.

Konrad was able to fend up multiple submission attempts by Grabowski in the second round, and even attempted a kimura late in the second round that looked have his opponent in trouble.

The conditioning of “the Polar Bear” also seemed much improved, as he didn’t look winded until late in the third round. In his last couple of fights, Konrad appeared to have gassed out after just one round, though he was still able to control the fight enough to win in those other matches.

One funny moment in round two saw the audience heavily boo the action on the mat and Konrad who was on top, but after being stood up by the referee, the crowd exploded into a loud “USA” chant, despite booing Konrad seconds before.

With this win, Konrad moves onto the finals of the Bellator heavyweight tournament, where he’ll face South African Neil Grove (10-2 with 1 draw). Grove was also victorous Thursday night, delivering a decisive TKO victory over Russian Alexey Oleinik in just 45 seconds of round one. Grove is a dangerous strike and will be Konrad’s biggest test to date, as all 10 of his victories have come from KO or TKO.

The winner of the Konrad-Grove fight, which will take place sometime in October, will be named the first ever Bellator heavyweight champion.

Minnesotan featured on The Ultimate Fighter

Unbeaten Minnesotan Mike “The Marine” Richman (8-0) was seen briefly on the season debut of The Ultimate Fighter this week, where he lost his opening round qualifying fight to UK native Aaron Wilkinson.

The 24-year-old Richman was one of 28 fighters trying to earn a spot in the house this season, which features UFC welterweight champion George St Pierre and first season TUF bad boy Josh Koscheck as coaches.

The exhibition fight, which Richman lost by unanimous decision after two rounds, was only seen in clips on the show.

Richman, a 2003 graduate of Rosemount High School, told the Rosemount Townpages ““I feel like I did as good as I could. I would do it again. Over and over again.”

Following high school, Richman joined the Marines, serving three combat tours in Iraq as an infantryman. He started training to be a fighter after leaving the Marines in 2008.

“It’s different, but the mentality is kind of the same. The toughness,” Richman said in the interview. “The mental toughness is the same. Being a badass in the Marine Corps. and infantry is going to help you be a badass through the tough parts in mixed martial arts.”

Richman is back in Minnesota and training at the Minnesota Fight Factory. There has been no word yet on when his next fight will be. He is the fifth Minnesota to appear on The Ultimate Fighter, being proceeded by Tommy Spear, Sam Morgan, Zak Jensen and Charley Lynch. Spear was the only one with notable success, reaching the finals of season 6’s tournament before losing to Mac Danzig.

Cole Konrad returns to cage tonight

Posted by: Kyle Shiely Updated: September 16, 2010 - 2:52 PM

Former Gopher wrestling star Cole “The Polar Bear” Konrad returns to the Bellator steel tonight when he takes on Polish star Damian Grabowski.

It is a battle of the unbeaten heavyweights, as Konrad puts his 5-0 record on the line against the Grabowski’s unblemished 13-0 record.

Konrad is best known for being a two-time NCAA champion wrestler while at the U. Konrad made his MMA debut earlier this year in North Dakota and is 3-0 in Bellator.

The fight is a semi-final match up in Bellator’s summer heavyweight tournament. The winner will face either Alexey Oleinik or Neil Grove, depending on who wins their undercard fight tonight.

Bellator airs live on FSN around the US, and locally the show will air after the Twins game on FSN North. Konrad-Grabowski is scheduled to be the main event on the show.

This event is the first show ever regulated by Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing , which started regulating MMA on September 1. The event takes place at the Eagle’s Ballroom in Milwaukee.  

Get the results tonight on our Twitter feed by following @StribMMA

Combative Sports Commission to crackdown on amateur fighters

Posted by: Kyle Shiely Updated: August 19, 2010 - 12:54 AM

The Minnesota Combative Sports Commission announced it will be more vigilant in enforcing the lines between amateur and professional fighters at their bimonthly meeting on Monday night in Blaine.

The question bubbled up recently when the commission became aware of two fighters who switching between professional and amateur status when competing in different states. Late last year, one Minnesota took a professional fight in North Dakota were he was paid $300 for the fight. He then returned to Minnesota and fought twice as an amateur before the commission became aware of the fight in North Dakota.
Another fighter took part in a professional fight in Minneapolis in June and then fought in Iowa and Wisconsin as an amateur the following week.
Commission Chairman R.D. Brown said while there can be an endless debate about when a person is ready to be a professional fighter, Minnesota statute defines a professional as “any person who competes for any money prize or a prize that exceeds the value of $50,” and the law must be followed. 

Many amateur MMA fighters in Minnesota have been skirting the rules to help offset their expenses by selling tickets to the events they are fighting on and keeping a portion of the proceeds. The commission has had a hard time enforcing the limitations because there has been no way to prove a fighter kept any money if they say they returned all of the money received to the promoter. 

Brown said a new license application will be introduced which will clearly specify amateurs are not allowed to receive anything with a value over $49, including tickets to sell.

Commissioner Michelle Gravenish asked the commission if the $49 fee was outdated and if they should look at raising it. Many in attendance agreed and people were instructed to contact the legislature if they wanted to work toward having it amended. 

Local fighter Melissa Schiro testified to the commission it was difficult for amateurs to pay for training as well as their bills without supplementing their income and selling tickets can be a part-time job for some fighters. 

Brutaal promoter Nick Gamst told the commission fighters can be his best tickets sellers and it would damage his business to exclude the fighters involved with the show from helping him get the word out and promote the show. 

In the end, it was repeated that the legislature would have to be the ones to make any changes to the current statute and until such a change was made, the commission would be enforcing the current rules. 

As far as disciplinary action, the commission voted to reduce the suspension of MMA fighter Derek Abram from six months to 90 days, following a recommendation from the grievance committee, who heard his appeal in a meeting last month. Abram had been suspended for fighting on a show with an expired license earlier this year. 

MMA fighter Shaine Emmons was suspended for six-months for fighting while under medical suspension. Emmons was knocked out in a 1:51 during a professional fight in June and was given a 60-day medical suspension by the doctor in attendance. The following week, he fought as an amateur in Iowa and was knocked out again. Then he fought in Wisconsin and was defeated quickly by TKO. Because Iowa did not regulate amateurs at the time and Wisconsin has not started regulating MMA yet, there was no one to stop him from fighting in those states. 

Emmons told the commission he thought the suspension meant he could not fight in states which sanction MMA. (Iowa does sanction professional MMA but Emmons bypassed the commission by claiming to be an amateur.)

Brown read to Emmons the suspension paperwork he was given after his fight and said it stated he was not allowed to fight at all for 60 days. 

Gravenish questioned if the commission had the authority to punish someone for actions taking place in another state. A discussion took place about the precedent in boxing for a six-month suspension for fighting while suspended. 

Commissioner Bob Stein gave an impassioned plea to those in attendance about understanding the medical suspensions were for the good of the fighter. He said through his work with the NFL he has seen a lot of the long-term effects of concussions on his fellow former colleagues and it is important the fighters are kept safe. 

“If we error in anyway, it should be in that this is something that should be enforced,” Stein said.

Brown said he felt “six-months isn’t long enough, but it will have to do.” 

In the end, the commission voted 6-1 to suspend Emmons, with Gravenish voting against. 

Also, office administrator Matt Schowalter reported the Department of Revenue had recently contacted the commission and was investigating the possibility of promoters not paying sales tax on tickets sold to their events.

Schowalter said the representatives from the revenue department also asked about events the commission was previously unaware had taken place and hence had not been regulated, but possibly should have been. However, they said they were prohibited from giving the commission any information about who promoted the events or when they took place.

Finally the commission once again debated the possibility of only regulating one event per weekend because the body was having a hard time getting some commissioners to attend events. The commission said they would continue to try and do multiple events on a weekend. If it needed to, the commission would start assigning commissioners to certain events instead of taking volunteers. 


The commission took in $13,600 in licensing fees for fiscal year 2010 and $54,000 in event fees. They reported $88,000 for staff salaries between Executive Director Scott LeDoux and the office administrator, $14,000 in payments to inspectors for overseeing events, and $32,000 in other costs, such as rent for their office, inter-agency charges and travel by commissioners and inspectors. The commission received $80,000 in appropriation from the State, giving them a $13,600 surplus to take into 2011. 

For the fiscal year 2011, the commission expects to make the Executive Director position a full-time job, raising staff salaries to $127,000, putting the commission $21,400 over budget if everything else remains the same. The commission must be self-sufficient by 2012 or it faces the possibility of being disbanded. 

All commissioners were in attendance except Matt Henderson and Bob Dolan. There was no update given on the ongoing search for a new executive director. 

Duluth boxing promoter spars with commission over disciplinary action

Posted by: Kyle Shiely Updated: August 17, 2010 - 1:05 PM

Boxing promoter Chuck Horton has scored what he feels was KO victory in his battle with the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission.

“I was found innocent of all charges...... The Minnesota boxing commission ruled in my favor.” Horton posted on Facebook following the meeting on Monday night.

Horton, who was suspended in June for holding exhibition fights at Grandma’s Bar in Duluth without the approval of the commission, saw his suspension and fine upheld by the commission, but the commission voted unanimously to stay the suspension for two years baring anymore infractions.

The disciplinary action stemmed from an exhibition card on June 17 featuring Matt “The Predator” Vanda sparring with Andy “Kaos” Kolle, as well as four other matches.

In an e-mail exchange with the commission before the event, Horton’s matchmaker told the commission’s office administrator that they would be holding a “public workout showcase” without defining what that entailed.

State statue 341 gives the commission oversight of exhibition boxing matches, but no one from the commission ever clarified with Horton what he meant by a public workout and so he was not warned in advance he might run afoul of the commission.

Horton told the full commission he felt he never did anything wrong, that they had been informed of his intentions every step of the way before the event, and it was unfair to punish him because of a misunderstanding.

The commission voted 6-1 to stay the suspension based on the recommendation of the grievance subcommittee, which met with Horton for 45 minutes before the full commission meeting.

At the sub-committee meeting, Horton told Commissioners Terry Dempsey, Pat Fallon and Craig Gallop he never meant to break any laws.

“I’ve been in boxing my whole life. ... I would never have gone through with this if I knew I was in violation of any statute,” Horton said.

“We had no knowledge that we were doing anything wrong,” Horton told the committee.

Fallon told Horton he should have attended the previous meeting in June because it could have produced a different outcome.

“It seemed like you weren’t listening, that you didn’t care what we said,” Fallon said. It seemed like the promoter was “giving us the metaphorical finger,” he added.

“We felt you were thumbing your nose at the commission,” Gallop said.

Horton said he wanted to clear his name and asked the punishment be rescinded completely, but he was not able to sway the full commission.

“I have five kids, they read about me in the paper. I am doing this for them. I have to value my good name,” Horton said.

The commissioners present decided not to rescind the fine, telling Horton he might not have known he was running an illegal event, but what he had done was still against the rules.

“We need to understand that you know now what is an exhibition and what falls under us,” Gallop told Horton.

Horton thanked the commission for their understanding and said he looked forward to working with them in the future.

“There are a lot of bad feelings now, and I don’t want there to be, we have a lot of opportunity” to grow boxing in Duluth, Horton said. 

Konrad's return to Bellator set, Wisconsin prepares MMA regulation

Posted by: Kyle Shiely Updated: July 23, 2010 - 1:28 PM
  • Cole Konrad enters Bellator tournament


Two-time NCAA heavyweight champion and former Golden Gopher Cole Konrad (4-0) announced earlier this week that he has been signed to fight in the upcoming Bellator Fighting Championship's heavyweight tournament.


The tournament will be the highlight of the third season of Bellator’s show on the Fox Sports Network. 


Konrad is best known nationally for being the training partner of UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at his camp in Alexandria. He has gone 4-0 since start his fighting career earlier this year, including winning his first two fights in the Bellator cage this last season, beating Pat Bennett and then John Orr both by decision. 


"This tournament is going to provide me with the greatest test that I've faced so far in my fighting career," Konrad said according to an article on "But this is exactly the kind of test I'm looking for. I want to get as many fights under my belt as I can and I want to keep fighting tougher guys. This tournament is going to allow me to do that.


The best known name in the tournament is for UFC fighter Eddie Sanchez (12-3). Sanchez was 3-3 in his UFC career from 2006-2008.


The first round match-ups start August 12 on Fox Sports Net. 



  • Wisconsin prepares MMA regulation


An initial draft of the legislation regarding the regulation of mixed martial arts in Wisconsin has been released according to an article by MMA blogger Paul Fladten at Wisconsin Combat Sports. 


The 43 page rough draft (compared to the just 11 pages that ended up being dedicated to regulating MMA in Minnesota Statutes) takes a harder stance on many issues than the Minnesota Commission does.


Fighter blood work will be renewed every 90 days according to Fladten, and every fighter would be eligible for drug testing anytime after weigh-in until 24 hours after the fight. The promoter would be responsible for paying for the testing according to Fladten’s report.


Minnesota only requires blood work once a year, and has no authority to require drug testing at all.


Wisconsin will also require $25,000 in life and medical insurance for the event, Minnesota only requires $10,000. Wisconsin will not allow same-day substitutions of fighters when an opponent backs out, something that happens regularly in Minnesota. 


Promoters will also have to have an ambulance on hand at the event, along with a medical team. Minnesota requires a doctor be present at the event. 


Wisconsin became the 43 state to regulate MMA when Governor Jim Doyle signed a bill regulating it back in February. The draft will be discussed in a series of meetings throughout Wisconsin before the bill is finalized later this year. 


Many of these discrepancies may come closer together as the Wisconsin commission receives public feedback. For a more detailed look at the Wisconsin proposal, you can read Fladten’s article here.


  • Chuck Horton vows to fight on. 


Jon Nowacki of the Duluth News Tribune talked to suspended boxing promoter Chuck Horton this week about what he is up to while waiting for his appeal to be heard by the commission.


I don't want to steal Nowacki's hard work so if you are interested you can read it here, but thing people might be interested in is that he's promoting two amateur boxing events this month, despite the fact that he can't currently promote professionally. Amateur boxing is regulated by USA Boxing in Minnesota and they allowing the events to take place.


Horton's appeal will be heard by the Commission's grievance committee on Aug 16. 


  • Carey Vanier returns to Bellator

Minneapolis native Carey Vanier (9-3) will return to the Bellator steel on Sept 9 when he takes on former UFC veteran Rich Clementi (46-16-1) for a spot in the Season 4 lightweight tournament, according to

Vanier made it to the semi-finals of this years lightweight tournament before he lost by armbar to Toby Imada.

Clementi was 5-4 in the UFC between 2006-2009 and is coming into the fight the winner of five of his last six fights.

The fight will be part of Bellator 28 live from New Orleans on Fox Sports Net.



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