The word pioneer is thrown around loosely these days, but in the case of Ken Shamrock, it’s an apt description. Speaking for myself, I am not sure I would have gotten into MMA if it wasn’t for Shamrock. He was just someone I was always interested in seeing fight and someone I’d always root for.
I am a writer but I am also a fan and I can remember watching UFC 40 in 2002 when Tito Ortiz pummeled Shamrock in their first-ever meeting. I hated Ortiz for doing that to my hero. Was it irrational anger? Absolutely. But I was a Shamrock fan and Ortiz had just beaten my guy. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the the last time he’d take a beating at the hands of Ortiz.
The losses to Ortiz made it easy to forget that Shamrock was both the first-ever King of Pancrase and the UFC’s first-ever Superfight champion. But the simple truth of the matter is he’s far removed from the time in which he known as the “World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
While nostalgia is fun, the reality is that the 44-year old Shamrock is 0-5 in his last fight bouts and hasn’t won since 2004. His career looked to have hit rock bottom following a first round knockout against heavyweight journeyman Robert “Buzz” Berry this past March during a Cage Rage event. It was a fight set up for Shamrock to win and in losing, it appeared he was all but done.
Flash forward to the present and Shamrock has been handed a golden opportunity to set to things right. Scheduled to face Kimbo Slice in the main event of EliteXC and CBS’ third installment of “Saturday Night Fights” on Oct. 4, Shamrock finds himself with one last shot at redemption.
With just six weeks until the fight, Shamrock took time to speak with FiveOuncesOfPain.com in an exclusive interview where he discussed the loss to Berry; his thoughts on Slice; his response to comments made by the camp of Brett Rogers; how long he plans to continue fighting; the status of his long-standing feud with adoptive brother Frank Shamrock; and more.
Sam Caplan: A lot of people were disappointed in the nature in which you lost to Robert “Buzz” Berry in March. Is there anything you can point to that caused that performance?
Ken Shamrock: Well I don’t think anyone was more disappointed than myself. A lot of things would have happened for me after that fight and I wanted that fight badly but unfortunately things didn’t work out for me. I had some real bad sickness, an illness. I came back to the States and I was sick for three weeks after but prior to that fight I had lost almost 20 pounds. From the time between leaving the States to when I was over in England, I was in bed trying to recover. Prior to weighing in I had put in two bags of fluid in me and I still only weighed 212.
So I was in pretty bad shape but because of the committment that I have to my sport, I just couldn’t step back and say “no,” which I probably should have looking back on it. But I didn’t, because I had the drive and I have this thing that I can overcome anything. And that’s been my downfall throughout my years and my career is that I don’t know when to say when.
Sam Caplan: You mentioned a lot of things could have happened for you had you won that bout. What were those things?
Ken Shamrock: It was a lot of financial opportunities that I had and I don’t want to go into that because those were my business opportunities. There’s a lot of different fights I could have had off of that with a win over Buzz Berry. It was just basically a fight I was supposed to step in and win. It was a setup fight for me and I didn’t go in and get the job done and a lot of things went by the wayside.
So I am very fortunate to get this opportunity to step in a fight Kimbo and I won’t make that mistake twice. I am going in and going in to win the fight — just like I did vs. Buzz Berry, but unfortunately things didn’t work out for me. But you know what? That’s just the way things work, you know? You go in and in this business you don’t always win. Anything can happen. It happened to me and I’ve just got to go out there and suck it up and this time get the job done.
Sam Caplan: After the fight you were released by ProElite. What did they tell you were the reasons why they were cutting your contract after one fight?
Ken Shamrock: I didn’t pay too much attention to what was said or what was done. Hell, it was a bad show for me. Even though I was sick and things didn’t work out for me, I still didn’t go out there and perform. It wasn’t the Ken Shamrock that got into this business. I’ve had a broken leg and I still competed. I went out there and tried to compete to the best of my ability — part of that though I didn’t think was my fault. Even though I did get clipped with a punch and I went down, I was nowhere even close to being out of that fight.
I went down and I was clipped and I wasn’t in the best of shape; I was sick and had lost weight and wasn’t in the best of shape; and had just basically tried to make sure I positioned myself in a place to win. But when I was clipped and had went down, I was waiting for him to get on top of me to where I could actually try and do some submissions, which is where I know he was weak at. But they stopped the fight before he ever came and touched me. I’m not saying it’s a bad stop but this is MMA and you’ve got to allow someone to finish a fight. This is not boxing where you get a 10 count or a knockdown rule. If I was laying flat on my back with my arms down on my side and I was unconscious, then I could see him stopping it but when you’ve got a guy that’s still alive and still squirming then you’ve got to allow the fight to continue; this is MMA.
So a lot of things happened in that fight. I wasn’t necessarily in the best of shape and in the best of health but at the same time I still want to go out and compete and I don’t believe I got that opportunity.
Sam Caplan: Your son, Ryan Shamrock, also appeared on the same show. He fought well but lost and hasn’t fought for ProElite since. Is he still under contract?
Ken Shamrock: Well, he broke his hand about 30 seconds into the first round. He then continued on and finished the round and a lot of us thought he won that round. But the cornerman saw his hand and took a look at it and it was a boxer fracture. He came back to the States and they put a cast on it for about eight weeks and then he took the cast off and went back to training and then he re-broke it again. That’s the reason he hasn’t been back fighting; the hand hasn’t healed up 100 percent yet.
Sam Caplan: Any chance we’ll get to see him on the undercard on Oct. 4?
Ken Shamrock: I don’t know. Right now we’re still trying to get his hand where he can punch with it full go. He’s grappling — he’s okay to grapple with it right now, but we’re still working with his punching. I want to make sure we don’t push him too fast. He’s still young and has got a bright future ahead of him. I don’t want to put him out there and have him re-break the thing again and continue to have a broken hand everytime he gets into a fight.
Sam Caplan: At what point did EliteXC contact you about fighting Kimbo on Oct. 4 and were you surprised they came back to you after cutting your contract?
Ken Shamrock: Like I said, I don’t recall what the contract things were. I kind of just cut myself off from all that. I let my agents handle all of that and so I don’t know what was done. I know there was talk about them not wanting to obligate the contract. So when they did come back to me and they did say that this fight (was available), I jumped at it. It’s a great opportunity for me to step in there and get right back in the mix of things and Kimbo Slice is basically gift wrapped for me. And I ain’t going to let this one get by me.
Sam Caplan: How long ago did they present this opportunity to you?
Ken Shamrock: It was short notice. I found out about this about a week ago. So it hasn’t been a lot for me to prepare for this but I’ll be ready. When this fight comes around, as much as I want this and the determination I have because of some of the things that have happened to me in the past, I want this bad and it’s going to show in the cage.
Sam Caplan: You’ve been quoted in the past as saying that Kimbo simply isn’t ready to be in the spot he’s in right now. What areas do you feel specifically that he’s lacking in?
Ken Shamrock: I just think that Kimbo in the future could be a great fighter. He’s got the look and obviously he’s got the marketability but skill-wise he really hasn’t gotten an opportunity to settle in and develop on his skills. He throws a big right hand and he’s got big punches but his cardio isn’t there and his positioning and his ground skills aren’t there. So there’s a lot of things he needs to improve in. He’s been pushed into the spotlight way too fast.
Sam Caplan: You’re one of the pioneers of this sport and a big reason why it is where it is today. I’m not alone in saying this, but you were the first fighter I became a true fan of and there are a lot of people that will read this that can say the same thing too. Do you feel that Kimbo Slice is good or bad for this sport?
Ken Shamrock: No, he’s good. I think that as far as being a face and what people look at as an MMA fighter, he’s not there yet. But as far as marketability and being mainstream and people look at him and go “wow!” He’s great marketing for our sport. But he’s not the image of an MMA fighter — not yet. Soon I think he will be but right at this point in time he’s not there. But like I said, I think he’s good for the sport because he crosses over from the mainstream — just as I did — into the MMA world. I think that he’s going to bring those people that haven’t watched MMA and they’re gonna watch it just because of the way he looks.
Sam Caplan: You have a history with Kimbo’s trainer, Bas Rutten. Prior to the Tank Abbott vs. Kimbo fight, in the week leading up to the fight Tank made a remark to the media that Kimbo’s biggest weakness was on the ground and that Bas wasn’t the guy you wanted to learn the ground game from. You’re a guy that has not only submitted Bas Rutten but you’re someone who is a trainer in addition to being a fighter. Do you think Kimbo and Bas are a good fit for each other?
Ken Shamrock: Absolutely, because Bas made his bones in kickboxing in Holland. He was a very big kickboxer and at one time he was ranked before he came into the Pancrase organization, which was a mixed martial arts organization in Japan. So Bas’ roots are from striking so he’s going to be able to help Kimbo control his punches, keep his spacing, don’t get too crowded and be able to try and stay on his feet. But at the same time, Bas already knows all of the escapes. He knows how to escape a leg lock. He knows all of the defenses to them and he knows how to keep people out of trouble.
So I think it’s a good match, him and Bas because Bas knows me inside and out. He knows what I’m going to do. So if anybody could be in his corner that would do him any good at all, it would be Bas Rutten. But you just can’t teach someone to fly in that short of a time. If you give him some time, maybe he’ll be able to get in there and do all of this stuff but not in this short of time.
Sam Caplan: I recent saw a poll on the website for the Wrestling Observer where about 54% of the respondents are picking Kimbo to win while 46% are picking you. After watching you in the Berry fight, some people feel you don’t have a shot to make it past the first two minutes. What’s going to change from you for this fight in comparison to the Berry fight?
Ken Shamrock: Well again, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, man. I’ve already explained what happened in the Buzz Berry fight. It just doesn’t do any good to keep going over it. The bottom line is that it’s still an excuse. No matter how many ways you flip it, it’s still an excuse. I want to go into this fight and after the fight is over I’ll be able to say “Hey, it’s not an excuse anymore. It was a reality.”
Sam Caplan: But are you planning anything different from a training perspective and working on new techniques or will you approach things differently from a tactical situation?
Ken Shamrock: I felt I had a good plan for when I fought Buzz Berry. Anytime you go in there having some problems you kind of lose focus on what you need to go in and do and that’s what happened with me; I lost focus on what I needed to do. So I expect to keep my mind focus and my strength where it needs to be and stick to my gameplan. I know what I’m going to do.
Sam Caplan: A win over Kimbo on CBS would open up a lot of other opportunities for you. At age 44, how much longer do you intend to compete though?
Ken Shamrock: As long as my body and my mind will allow me to. As long as the fans still want to see it. I think that every time I step into the ring, just like now, there’s always a buzz and it always seems to jack people off of their seats. So hey, I guess I’ve been blessed. I don’t know what it is but I love to fight and I love to get in the ring and I want to be healthy for once. That’s obviously not going to happen completely but at least enough to where I can go in and just let it go. I’ve been fortunate and right now with all the buzz and all the pop in MMA over this fight. You know, there’s still an interest and I’m still interested in fighting. The fans are still interested in seeing me fight so I am just going to keep bringing it.
Sam Caplan: You’ve had such a historic career; literally a Hall of Fame career. A fighter never wants to consider the idea of losing, but if you aren’t able to get past Kimbo on Oct. 4, could Oct. 4 be the last time Ken Shamrock fans get to you see compete?
Ken Shamrock: I will never, ever make that statement prior to a fight.
Sam Caplan: The manager for Brett Rogers, Mike Reilly, released a statement to Five Ounces of Pain earlier in which he said you in jest that were 103-years old and your ego usurped Rogers’ shot at Kimbo. At one point he said you butted in line. How do you respond to that accusation and if you win, do you have any interest in a fight with Rogers?
Ken Shamrock: First of all, you’re talking about a guy standing outside of the ring and is training somebody and creating this problem. He has no idea what went on behind the scenes. And he does know the time I’ve put into MMA and the other people that have paved the way for people like Brett Rogers to get in the ring and fight and have opportunities to fight people like Kimbo. I didn’t set this fight up! I didn’t go to them and ask for this fight! They came to me because they thought that this would be the best fight that would suit them in order to make a big bang in MMA. If he thinks that Brett Rogers can do the same sort of thing that I’m doing right now, they would have used him. I’m sorry if he feels that way. I’m sorry if he feels like I jumped in front of him. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t set it up. I just stepped in and took what they offered so if he’s pissed off at me, hey, stand in line.
Sam Caplan: If you beat Kimbo, is Rogers someone you’d be open to fighting?
Ken Shamrock: You know what? That’s just like asking me if I’m going to retire if I don’t win the fight. Those are questions I won’t even answer until after my fight.
Sam Caplan: Is talking about a potential fight vs. your adoptive brother Frank Shamrock something you’re willing to talk about in this interview?
Ken Shamrock: Well, obviously that’s one that’s already been set out there so it’s not like it hasn’t been talked about. That one has already been put into place so I believe it’s up to the organization and Frank to say yes. I’m already standing there waiting and saying “Yeah, you guys have talked about and you set it up and I said yes.”
Sam Caplan: Sometimes with Frank it’s hard to tell what’s for real and what’s for show. He’s gotten personal and has gone so far as to accuse you of using steroids. I’ve been at events where the two of you were at and it’s like you didn’t even exist to each other. First, can you respond to the steroid accusations, and second, what’s the relationship between the two of you behind-the-scenes?
Ken Shamrock: First of all, I’ve already made a statement about that and it’s the same thing as trying to kick a dead horse. You don’t need to keep talking about it. You make a statement and you put your thing out there and that’s that. As far as me and Frank go, when we end up in each other’s presence the best thing to do is probably not to say anything because me, personally, with the things that he’s done to my father, which was supposed to be his adoptive dad, if he was to say anything or get out of line, I’d probably punch him in the nose.
Sam Caplan: I realize the two of you are adopted but you were raised by the same father and you brought him into MMA. With Frank and his family not in your life, do you ever feel a void? I mean, you have kids and he has kids. Do they ever express an interest in interacting with each other? Is a reconciliation something you strive for in the future or is it something that doesn’t matter?
Ken Shamrock: Of course it’s something that… because my father is the one that was hurt the most out of this. He was the one who took Frank and he was the one who visited Frank all the time and took care of him and raised him and helped him out of trouble. He did all of those things for him and I was basically a peer counselor for a time and then I went away to college for a time so I wasn’t really there a whole bunch when he was around.
The only time that I was there was when he got out of prison and my dad asked me if I would take him in and let him stay at my house and that he was thinking of adopting him. And I said “Hey pop, if this is what you want then I’m all for it. But once you do it you can’t go back on it, this is it.” And so he got out and I took him and started him out and protected him and got him where he needed to be. And then he said, she said, or whatever, from what Frank said and from what my mom said and my father are saying are two different things.
The bottom line is that as long as he makes it up and gets it straight — my dad and him get it straight, between them two — I’m good.
Sam Caplan: Do you think he’s saying some of the things he’s said just to foster a feud that could lead to a big money match or do you think this is how he really feels?
Ken Shamrock: It’s hard to say with Frank because a lot of times when Frank says things it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute you’re getting the guy that’s shaking your hand (while he’s) smiling and talking to you and then you turn around and three days later you hear something on a website that he said about you. So it’s hard to know what he’s really thinking.
Sam Caplan: Do you feel like you guys were ever close at one point when things were going well?
Ken Shamrock: No. I think that I basically had brought Frank in and I put him through a tryout and I got him fights over in Japan and I basically protected him with certain kind of fighters that he was going to fight. And basically was just bringing him along to a point where I knew he was ready and I’d get him that big fight. He kept thinking I was just holding him back but in all honesty I was just making sure that whenever he made that jump to that next level that he was ready. And I did that with all of my fighters. Every single one of them, I always wanted to make sure they were ready and he just felt that he was being held back and this and that and I just said being a Shamrock and coming from of what I’ve accomplished and him coming out with the Shamrock name, people are gunning for him so he’s got to be ready so I just wanted to make sure he was really ready to get in and get it done.
Sam Caplan: But at one point did you ever feel a true closeness? Did he ever feel like a true brother to you?
Ken Shamrock: I’m not sure that we ever felt that. I think it was more through my dad. My dad really cared for him and loved him and because my dad had those feelings for him, I had those feelings for him. I just said “Whatever you need pop, I’ll do it.”