Fearing prison for a crime he did not commit, he ran from the police for seven years. Now he goes against the law enforcement officer in the cage. And according to his words, he enjoys it immensely. “Who wouldn’t want to punch a cop?” burning the controversial Shem Rock from Liverpool before Saturday’s duel with Czech mixed martial arts legend Jaroslav Pokorný.
When he left his home in central Liverpool early one morning in 2014 with plans to leave the UK, he thought he wouldn’t get far.
The then 20-year-old Shaqueme Rock, today known in the MMA world as Shem Rock, was charged with aggravated burglary with bodily harm. He expected that at the latest at the border with France he would not pass the passport control and handcuffs would be put on him.
But the train journey went smoothly. Escape worked.
Rock resorted to him out of fear that he would end up behind bars. He thought that no one would believe his innocence – later proven by the court. After all, he was already a criminal – he sold drugs, participated in street fights.
“I have a lot on my list, but I have never been a thief,” explains Rock in an interview for Aktuálně.cz.
The escape eventually led him to Thailand, from where he moved to Malaysia after a few months, where he more or less accidentally discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It changed his life.
Until then, he was not involved in combat sports, he was closest to football. “I played it actively, everyone who grows up in Liverpool does. We even got to a very decent level, but as soon as I discovered martial arts, I stopped playing and watching football, I completely hated it,” Rock recounts.
About two years after his run, he started winning amateur and then professional matches in Asia. In order to kick off his solid career even more, he moved to Ireland, from where it is only a short distance to Great Britain. And to her police.
He made a mistake when he started the matches in Northern Ireland, the territory of the United Kingdom. The first time the risk worked out, the second time it didn’t. He ended up in handcuffs. After seven years since the escape.
He spent six months in custody before the trial, where he kept in shape as much as possible. But in the case of a harsh sentence, he could say goodbye to his wrestling career.
“I wasn’t worried about that. I could plead guilty as part of the deal and get a lesser sentence, or go to trial and serve seven to eleven years if convicted. I took it that either of those options would deprive me of career. So it made sense to go to court and fight, especially since I didn’t commit the crime,” explains Rock.
He actually walked away from court as innocent.
Thanks to this, he can now wrestle in the Czech-Slovak organization Oktagon MMA. In the lightweight category, he is currently eleventh overall, standing in his way is eighth-ranked Pokorný, a plainclothes policeman.
Shem Rock on Prague’s Štvanice as part of Oktagon 47 | Photo: Octagon MMA
“It’s no secret that I’d be happy to punch this guy in the face. Who wouldn’t want to punch a policeman? After him, transporters and janitors can come,” describes Rock, who has been attacking Pokorný for his profession for a long time. The law enforcement officer is not in love – or at least that’s how he presents himself.
He goes into the fight against the 37-year-old veteran Pokorný, who almost lost his leg due to a nasty knee injury and subsequent infection a few years ago, as the favorite. In nine professional fights, he lost only once, won seven times and drew once.
While the last time he faced a hostile audience at Prague’s Štvanice, where he defeated Jan Malach, now he is almost in a home environment.
On Saturday, the Octagon will break out for the first time in Britain, specifically in Manchester, which is only about an hour’s drive from Rock’s native Liverpool. Pokorný will be at a disadvantage.
“Nobody from Manchester and not even any Liverpool or Irishman will cheer for the cop, I’ll bet my life on that. This will be one hundred percent the most hostile environment he’s ever fought in. Even Czech fans write to me every day that they hope I kill the cop,” says the 30-year-old Rock, the rising star of the Octagon.
If he hadn’t gone on the run ten years ago, he’d probably have other things to worry about now than the so-called trash talk.
“If I had never left Liverpool, I would still be a career criminal, which would lead to prison, death, or possibly getting rich, but I would have to watch my back all the time. What I am doing now makes me much happier,” adds Rock, adding that one day he would as an MMA coach, he liked to guide children from problematic circumstances so that they would not go down the path of career criminals. A track from which he actually slipped by accident.