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Meet the MMA star who was on the run from the police but now trains with UFC's Paddy Pimblett

Meet the MMA star who was on the run from the police but now trains with UFC's Paddy Pimblett

SPORTbible spoke to Shem Rock ahead of his big fight at OKTAGON 56.

Introducing Shem Rock who went on the run from the police after he was accused of a burglary before becoming the 'face' of OKTAGON MMA.

Fighting out of Liverpool's famed Next Generation, where he trains with UFC stars Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann, Rock was arrested in connection with an aggravated burglary. He went on the run before fleeing the country, fearing he would be jailed for a crime he did not commit.

Rock set up shop in Asia and while on the run, he started training in MMA. A somewhat latecomer to the sport, he found a knack for fighting and competed as an amateur before turning professional, having fights in Malaysia, Taiwan and UAE.

Rock compiled a 4-0 record before returning home. In April 2022, he was found not guilty of aggravated burglary, freeing him of the charge and clearing his name in the process.

He not only had battles with the law but also doubters. However, his critics fuelled his motivation as he searched for greatness.

"I started late in this [MMA], I was 22 years of age when I first started," he told SPORTbible. "Everyone that I spoke to, would be like 'you're too old', 'you're never going to make it'. But them type of things just motivate me... 'I'm gonna show yous all wrong'.

"A lot of doors were shut in my face, I was kicked out of a lot of gyms, I was signed by major promotions and released.

"So, every time that happened to me, rather than go home and cry about it, I'd just be like 'okay, watch next' and it'd just motivate me to be even better.

"If you know Scousers... we're hard working, gritty, determined people. We're used to getting doors shut in our faces, so we don't knock no more, we just kick them down."

Rock moved around from gym-to-gym before finding his home at Next Generation. The sparring partners, which includes Pimblett and McCann, and the coaches have forged his skillset as he credits the Liverpool base for his meteoric rise in MMA.

"The sport's forever evolving so you also need coaches with open mindsets," he said. "The coaches [would] very much study the past, present and even look to the future - new techniques of fighting, new concepts. I do believe the coaches have a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience. But then you got to look at the lads in the room. Everyone in the room is a world champion-level athlete."

Pimblett, who beat MMA legend Tony Ferguson in his last UFC appearance, trains with Rock, who hopes 'The Baddy' will be cageside for his massive fight against Stefano Catacoli at OKTAGON 56 in Birmingham, England.

"I hope so - If he's not, I don't knock him... I wouldn't want to drive to Birmingham either," he joked.

Rock was a sought-after commodity before penning a deal with OKTAGON. But he committed his future to the promotion, where he has one win and one draw to his name.

Despite his high-level skillset, the 30-year-old isn't interested in belts - he just wants to put on shows for the fans.

"Throughout my career I fought for titles loads of time and afterwards I never really cared... I just f**king throw it in the bin. I don't even know where my titles are to this day. I don't really keep them. It's not real. It doesn't mean anything to me. What means something to me is the memories of the fight, the calibre of the opponents I fought. I'm here fighting for the fans.

"I just love to fight," he added. "As long as I enjoy doing what I'm doing, I'm here until the wheels fall off. I'm so fortunate in life that I know this is what I love to do."

Rock is one of, if not the, biggest fighter on OKTAGON's star-studded roster. Even though he's had two fights with the company, he insists he already is their poster boy, claiming another win on April 20 would enhance his status.

"I am the face of OKTAGON MMA... it's already a fact," he exclaimed. "Another win makes my legacy bigger, makes my name bigger, makes the brand bigger. But that's all background noise, I'm here for the win."

Standing in the way of Rock, Catacoli who hails from London and trains at Brad Pickett's Great Britain Top Team.

He's a student of former UFC star Pickett and boasts a 7-1 record.

Rock, though, is extremely confident that he will get the job done later this month, predicting an emphatic, first-round victory.

"First round violence. I'll finish him how ever I want to finish him. I'm kind of more reactive, go with the flow so I'll just read him. I'll feint on him early on, make his reads and see what he's trying to come with."

Featured Image Credit: OKTAGON MMA/Shem Rock

Topics: Paddy Pimblett, UFC, Spotlight