Exclusive: Liverpool’s Next MMA Star on His Bond with Paddy ‘The Baddy’ and Bringing the Sport to Merseyside

Shem Rock's first-round win at OKTAGON 56, guided by UFC stars, sets sights on Liverpool headline bout.

Louis Hobbs
Louis Hobbs

Last Updated: 2024-04-24

Naim Rosinski

8 minutes read

Liverpool’s Next MMA Star

Liverpool's rising mixed martial arts sensation, Shem Rock, delivered a stunning performance at OKTAGON 56, seizing victory in a first-round submission triumph over London rival Stefano Catacoli at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham. Rock's strategic prowess and tenacity in the cage showcased his status as a formidable force in the MMA world.

In an exclusive interview with, Rock provided insights into the moments leading up to his victorious bout. He revealed a relaxed pre-fight routine, arriving at the venue later than usual, prioritising rest and relaxation. Despite considering a potential early knockout, Rock opted for cautious hand protection during wraps, aiming to preserve his fists for future engagements.

"I came to the venue pretty late, I’d be sleeping all day, just chilling, relaxing. I got my hands wrapped, which I never normally do. I thought I was maybe going to knock him out early on, and I wanted to protect my hands as I want to fight again in June," Rock disclosed.

Rock’s Training Regimen

Rock's preparation included strategic training sessions, refining his submission skills with meticulous attention to detail. Collaborating with fellow fighters such as George Staines and Luke Riley, Rock fine-tuned his techniques, setting the stage for a potential show-stopping move.

"I watched George Staines warm up and then go out and there and do his thing. Then I got warm and had a move around with Luke Riley, and I was practicing that one arm rear-naked choke, and we were all joking saying it would be sick if I got that, and then I nearly did it!" Rock recounted with enthusiasm.

Psychological Warfare: Reading the Opponent

The Liverpool native's keen observation skills played a pivotal role in gauging his opponent's demeanour. Sensing Catacoli's nervous energy, Rock tactfully engaged him in pre-fight banter, subtly disrupting his focus and predicting his aggressive approach.

"As soon as I got in there, I just felt a lot of nerves off him. Whenever I get in the cage I do a lap, and I tried to touch his gloves then, but he didn’t want to. So, at that point I emphasised, and asked him ‘do you want to touch gloves when the fight starts?’ - and when he acknowledged me, I could feel a break of focus in him and I could see his lips twitching, and from there I knew he would rush at me when the fight started," Rock revealed.

Rock's training regimen leading up to the fight showcased his dedication to honing his craft. Despite a setback due to a hand injury sustained during jiu-jitsu training, Rock adapted his routine, emphasising grappling sessions while managing his recovery with resilience and determination.

"I normally lift with my coach three times a week. This camp I lowered it to two times and added a lot of jiu-jitsu. People don’t know this, but when I was in Newcastle for OKTAGON 52 supporting Denis [Frimpong], I was doing jiu jitsu with Luke Barnatt and he dislocated my hand," Rock disclosed.


Image credit: OKTAGON MMA

OKTAGON's Approach: Talent Over Sensationalism

Reflecting on OKTAGON's approach to combat sports, Rock commended the promotion for prioritising talent over sensationalism. While acknowledging the importance of business considerations, Rock emphasised the value of authenticity in fighter promotion, highlighting the uniqueness of each athlete's persona.

"I think fighters just need to be themselves and fans will either like them or hate them. I don’t mean to be a trash-talker, and I don’t mean to be humble, I’m just myself - if you like that, good for you, but I’m not really bothered!" Rock asserted.

Guidance from Local UFC Stars

Rock's bond with UFC stars Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann has been instrumental in his career journey, offering a blend of camaraderie and strategic advice. Drawing from their distinct personalities, Pimblett's assertive encouragement and McCann's insightful guidance have contributed to Rock's growth and confidence in the cage.

"They’re two very different people. Paddy is more like one of the lads, and will tell you, ‘just go and f*** him up lad’, where Molly will be more like the big sister or motherly advice, or tell you about the science of the fight, but Paddy will tell you to smash the guy because he’s s**t," Rock shared.

Paddy etc.jpeg

Image credit: OKTAGON MMA

What’s Next: Headlining and Beyond

Looking ahead, Rock envisions headlining the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, aiming for a high-profile matchup against seasoned competitor Ivan Buchinger. With his sights set on elevating his status as a premier fighter, Rock remains steadfast in his pursuit of excellence within and beyond the cage.

"I’d love to headline M&S Bank Arena. I’d love to pitch it to them with Pavol and Ondrej [OKTAGON’s owners], show them how we’d sell out the gaff. I’d love Ivan Buchinger in Liverpool. He’s fought the who's who, he’s got a massive record, and if I beat a guy like that them people couldn’t argue anymore," Rock affirmed.

With each victorious performance, Shem Rock continues to solidify his position as a dominant force in the MMA landscape, captivating audiences with his skill, determination, and unwavering pursuit of excellence. As he sets his sights on future challenges and achievements, Rock's journey promises to inspire and ignite the spirit of competition within the realm of combat sports.

Stay tuned to to keep up to date with the thrilling MMA action and fierce competition as it happens live from the arena floor.

Louis Hobbs
Louis HobbsLead Journalist

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.