Shem Rock Interview

shem rock fighter

Shaqueme Rock is an up and coming featherweight fighter who is currently lighting the MMA world alight with his Brazilian Ju-Jitsu fighting style and high work rate. In this wide-ranging interview, Stephen Matthews asked Shem about a range of subjects from his nickname and how it came around to how he got into the MMA world.

The Nickname

First of all, we asked Shem about his nickname and how it came about, he had this to say “My real name is Shaqueme Rock but everyone calls me ‘Shem’. It started as a childhood name ‘Shemmy’ but as I grew older

I abbreviated it to Shem, but if someone has known me from childhood, they will call me Shemmy. I don’t know how the name came around it was ‘Lil Shemmy’ since I can remember.”

The start of his journey and his early life

Shem is currently a professional MMA star fighting in Asia and has a professional record of 5-0-0, but we wanted to know how his career started, and when. Shem proceeded to tell us “I’m 26 years old and I have always been involved in sports and athletics, but I started martial arts at the age of 20. Jiujitsu was my first art, but I only transitioned to MMA because there is no money in BJJ and I wanted to continue to train full time without working. Who knew I’d end up where I am today?”

Shem is originally from Liverpool, and we wanted to know about his upbringing and why he left Liverpool when he was so young. Shem explained “I had a very good upbringing when I was younger living in Liverpool, but then my mother and father split and I was only raised by

my mum with 2 other brothers.”

Shem then explained the troubles he went through after his mother and father split. “We moved house a lot and had it rough being in and out of hostels around London and Merseyside. I attended many schools always getting kicked out and I just stopped attending at 15 with no qualifications or career prospects.”

Other career paths

When we asked Shem whether he had considered any other career paths, he told us “I was always very good at football and played semi-pro at one stage, but at the same time I was hanging around the streets and getting up to no good. Now I am older I know there’s no half’s in this game you’re either fully committed or you are not.”

Later life

shem rock mma
Shem moved away from Liverpool at age 19

Shem moved away from Liverpool later on in his life and this is when he started to get really into MMA. Shem explained why he moved away from Liverpool, “I left Liverpool at the age of 19 (not for the first time) as I was constantly getting arrested and was in and out of trouble. I was moving recklessly and the end path was clear, I would either end up in jail or dead, it is as simple as that.”

“My older brother saw my situation and offered me an opportunity to leave Liverpool and come to Malaysia and help support me. That’s where I met my jiujitsu professor Bruno Barbosa and changed my life immensely. I wouldn’t be where I am without my brother Saka today, I’d probably be in jail right now without him.”

“I was really on a bad road with gangs, drugs, and violence but when I found martial arts it changed my life for the better. I now look back on the person I used to be and could never see myself going back there. When you’re from the hood that’s all you know, when you’re a kid you idolise these people like dealers who have the cars and the money but its not until your involved that your realise there is no way out and it’s a slippery slope. I’m lucky I got out and changed my life for the better.”

We then asked Shem what his reasons were for misbehaving and ending up in the mess he was in, he stated “I had a chip on my shoulder I hated police, government and upper-class people for the way I’d been treated in the system and everyday life.”

Shem then explained how his life changed when he broadened his horizons and started to socialise with the people he had formerly hated. “Being in the mats daily with politicians, lawyers, millionaires, and famous people gave me a different perspective in life and they didn’t see me as a roadman or a scum bag, which was weird at first, but that experience in life broadened my mind and help me get rid of a lot of anger and hate for certain people from the past.”

Training in different countries around the world

shem rock mma
One of Shems’ inspirations is Connor Mcgregor

Shem comes from Liverpool, but has experienced a range of different cultures and lived in diverse communities across the globe, and we wanted to know how he felt about his constant changes in culture and country. Shem told us “I hated it at first because I always believed Liverpool was the best place in the world everyone outside of there was ‘wools’, but I grew a lot as a person and got to experience many great things that not even money could buy and meet some amazing people from many cultures and made some lifelong friends. Malaysia is my second home forever now and it has made me realise Liverpool isn’t the be-all and end-all, and that I was just doing everything wrong. This experience made me realise how lucky I am.”

Because of all of the different cultures and countries Shem has experienced, we wondered whether training in these environments helped him develop his skills, he told us “most definitely, I have to focus all my energy 3 times a day on nothing but training my a** off and then I go home and study fights in my free time. I eat, breathe, and sleep martial arts.”

“When training in different countries, the weather is perfect for training. It’s so hot and humid you build amazing cardio and it’s also cheap so you can afford to eat out every single meal, nothing but organic clean healthy food.”

“I definitely learnt a lot and I miss it every day, but now is a new chapter of my life I’m here to gain big opportunities. I’m not one to shy away from the struggle and I have to sacrifice many luxuries, but for the end goal it will be worth it.”


We then asked Shem about any inspirations he has and who’s fight style he looks to emulate. Shem had this to say, “On the feet, I love wonder boy he’s just so technical and makes everything seem effortless and I kind of have a similar heavy kicking-based style. I also like Conor McGregor, being a southpaw also we do a lot of similar things, but mostly I’m inspired and try to emulate the people around me. I’m blessed by getting to train with some amazing wrestlers and jiujitsu practitioners and strikers.”


Shem has trained in a few different gyms across all of the countries and cities he has visited, and all of them have different traits and specialities. We asked Shem how each gym compared and which he preferred, he told us, “I had honestly spent my whole career at one gym and I loved the coaches there, but the gym owner wasn’t the nicest of people and

eventually kicked me out due to my background, he wasn’t a very nice guy and, in the end, it was blocking my career from developing.”

“Eventually I was forced to seek training outside and that is where I found Phuket top team in Thailand. I enjoyed my time there a lot, the island of Phuket is an amazing place and I could most definitely see myself living there for the rest of my life after my career is done and dusted, but I opted to leave Thailand and Malaysia indefinitely for the opportunities I’ll get here in Europe.”

“I’m fed up of all the pull outs and fight begging in Asia, people ended up ducking me because I’m a good grappler. In 1 year, I had 9 pull outs and 1 fight, I can’t survive off that.”

“When I moved back to Europe, I had to make big sacrifices and lose out on a lot of luxuries but I don’t care I’m here to fight the best and show people what scousers are about. In Europe, I will get my chances.”

Career and goals

shem rock interview
Shem has competed in various countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam

Shem has many years’ experience when it comes to training in MMA and BJJ, and has fought in some large events against fighters of substantial skill sets, so we asked him about his fighting experiences. Shem said, “Well in MMA I have had 9 fights, 4 amateur, 5 professional, and I won them all by submission, bar one which was a KO, I even won an AMMY title. I have also had 1 kickboxing match which I won and easily over 100 BJJ matches, losing only 4 and drawing one. During my career, I have had the pleasure of seeing and competing in many countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.”

After moving back to Europe, Shem started to train at the famous SBG gym in Ireland, where a lot of top-level fighters have trained, but we wanted to know if there were any other reasons he chose the SBG gym, he told us; “Well I came to Ireland intending to train at SBG, my friend Andros put me onto some amazing people who are from SBG and I have been getting in with them and training my ass off and I’m loving it!”

“During my time here I have had 3 fights lined up, 1 in Ethiopia, 1 in Belfast, and 1 in Denmark for a world title so I came to do all 3 back to back and take over the scene, but 2 days after I arrived coronavirus hit, so it’s been hard surviving here. I have been getting looked after by Dave Cowley, he is a very good man and has treated me like family. But I believe everything happens for a reason, and this has only lit the fire in my belly to take this region even more.”

Shem has many career goals, but it seems that his main goal is to make it to the UFC. When we asked him about fighting again this year, and where would that be, he told us “I will fight this again year, I’ll make it happen by any means necessary. I’m lucky to have Probellum looking out for me, so hopefully, I can get on another one of there shows, they are really good people.”

“Personally, if it’s up to me where I am fighting, I’d choose the UFC. I want to fight big names, for example, I’d love to fight a Sean O’Malley or Chase Hooper to try and derail them hype trains, show the haters I’m the real deal.”

Shem’s life changed when he found MMA and his previous life of crime and gangs was left behind, and he wants to help others do the same. Shem told us “My dream is to open a gym in my home area and teach martial arts for free. I want to teach the same deprived kids I see myself in. I want to hopefully compete on world stages and be a better role model for people in a similar situation I was in.”

Finally, Shem told us “I wouldn’t even mind going around speaking and mentoring kids in the future, who knows, but for now I’m all in martial arts.

I have big goals to achieve and I can’t be 1 foot in 1 foot out, but I’ll be there one day.”

This interview was conducted by Steven Matthews, founder of Sports Involve. If Shem’s story has inspired you to get into the combat sports world, why not check out our club directory to find a combat sports club near you, or if you are interested in other blogs or interviews with fighters, visit our blog page where we have interviews with the likes of Carly Skelly and Shaun Farmer. If you would like to find out more about Sports Involve please visit our website.

Follow Shem Rock on social media to keep up with his combat sports career:

Instagram: @shemrockbjj

Twitter: @shemrockbjj

Facebook: Shem Rock BJJ


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