In 1997 ABC News ran a documentary called “The World’s Most Dangerous Things.” It ran the gamut of animals, cities, etc. When it reached the section titled “World’s Most Dangerous Man,” it let the world in on a secret that early fans of MMA had already known for years — Ken Shamrock was indeed the world’s most dangerous man.
Shamrock’s drive was only surpassed by his intensity, and he has blazed the way for many fighters that followed him. Ken Shamrock not only became a highly decorated fighter in his own right, but he also passed on his knowledge to the fighters he trained at the Lion’s Den and created even more champions.
Shamrock was the first single-fight belt holder in UFC history [UFC Superfight champion]. He was also the first King of Pancrase which gave him the distinction of becoming the first foreign MMA champion in Japan. He started the first MMA fight team [Lion’s Den]. He not only holds the distinction of the longest fight in UFC history [36 minutes against Royce Gracie at UFC 5], but he and his co-combatant were the first two people inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. The list of accomplishments between his MMA career and professional wrestling career are virtually endless.
When I was given the opportunity to sit down and chat with the former champion, I jumped at the chance. What I learned is that the world’s most dangerous man is actually a pretty nice guy.
Pop-Break: So what’s going on with the Ian Freeman fight this month in England? I heard it may not be happening.
Ken Shamrock: Well, that fight’s not happening. We had a promoter that didn’t want to put the money into the escrow account like he was supposed to, on June 1st. We gave them three different chances to make it right and after 25 days of breaking the contract, they wanted to change the contract. Finally, I told them if the money wasn’t there this last Monday, then it was over. The money wasn’t there and now they are trying to say it was all my fault.
PB: That has got to suck. You enter into a training camp and start preparing for the fight, only to have it taken away.
KS: I think that’s what they were counting on, that I would go ahead and do it, but I know all the ins and outs of this industry. I know that if I go to England, that there is no governing body that says they have to pay me. MMA is not officially sanctioned in England so the contracts are not binding.
PB: So you were supposed to keep your word, while they wouldn’t keep there’s?
KS: I believe the whole idea was to sell tickets off my name, and then to not pay me. I just don’t get it. They stand to lose even more money now that I am not fighting. People are going to want their ticket money back. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
PB: Can you tell me about the documentary you have coming out?
KS: I actually have three different projects coming out. One is about my brother Frank, my father, and myself. The second one is about my struggles in my MMA career and in my personal life. That one will be coming out first and it should be out the end of summer. It’s called The Greatest Fight. I am also involved with a reality show called Shamrock Security that will air on the History Channel. It follows my security and body guard company out in Reno. It’s going to be along the lines of employing up and coming athletes, ex-athletes, and ex-military personnel to do security and bodyguard work. This way it gives them a chance to make money and support their families, either after their sports career or military service is over, or until they get their break in professional sports.
PB: Can you tell me a little more about the documentary about you, your dad, and Frank?
KS: It’s going to be coming out around the Bellator fights, and I’m not sure what it will be called yet. It’s basically just going to be telling our story. Frank and I will be getting interviewed separately and together. We will each be telling our sides of the story, what things went wrong, where we disappointed each other, and to address the issues with our father.
PB: I don’t know if this is a touchy subject or not, but how is the relationship currently between you and Frank?
KS: I don’t really have any feelings about it right now. You know, for a long time I was very, very angry, but, it hit a point where I just really didn’t care anymore. It just didn’t mean anything to me anymore.
PB: So, do you think this might be a chance for you guys to move on and possibly heal this relationship?
KS: I’m really hoping so.
PB: I saw you on the show Payback years ago and it was really the first glimpse I got into you as a person and not just the fight persona. It was pretty great to watch the way you interacted with your dad and to watch you build the Cadillac for him.
KS: That’s really why I want people to see me in different lights. So many people haven’t really seen me for who I am. I want people to know who Ken Shamrock is. I’m a grandfather of nine kids and I watch them all the time. I’ve got seven kids of my own and I have a very close family. People that know me from fighting or from outside of fighting would never ever be able to put the two together.
PB: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UFC. Unlike most of your peers, you actually competed in MMA before the UFC existed. Do you think that competing and winning the Pancrase tournament made you better prepared for the UFC?
KS: I think what prepared me the most for the UFC was my upbringing, living in a group home, living out on the streets. Most people freaked out the first time saw full contact fighting or when they first stepped in the octagon. When I heard it, I thought it was great. I didn’t have to worry about getting stabbed. I didn’t have to worry about getting shot. I didn’t have to worry about getting jumped. Just me and you, mano a mano. It was pretty cool to me. I embraced the whole idea of it.
PB: Now, what most people don’t realize is that you actually fought in Pancrase just four days before UFC 1.
KS: I defended my title against Fuke and flew into Denver three days later. I was so adrenaline-driven that I just couldn’t wait to get in the ring once I got to Denver.
PB: Did you think that MMA would ever become the multi-billion dollar industry that it is?
KS: I never really took the time back then to think about where it would be in twenty years, or even ten days. I really only cared about when my next fight would be and that I went in there, did my job, and dominated. My life revolved around the date that I would be next in the ring. I would start training. I would focus on my opponent. That’s what I lived my life for. Every single day I’d wake up and just want to know the next date that I was going to fight.
PB: In the sport of MMA, you hold a ton of distinctions and achievements. You were the first King of Pancrase, First UFC superfight winner, First inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame [with Royce Gracie], and the list goes on and on. Is there one achievement that stands out to you above the rest?
KS: There are two of them. Being the first Superfight champ in the UFC is the first. When you think about it, all single fight belts go back to the Superfight belt, and I was the very first one to put it around my waist. The second one would be winning the very first King of Pancrase title, which when you look at it’s history, the Pancrase promotion has put out more UFC champions than any other promotion. I was the first for both, and I held both belts at the same time.
PB: You also hold the distinction of putting together the first fight team, in the Lion’s Den, which produced some of the best fighters in the UFC. Where does the Lion’s Den stand currently?
KS: Right now we are in sort of a lull. I want my guys to pursue a professional career, but right now there is not a reputable promotion where these guys can go and fight and make money. The UFC won’t touch me or any Lion’s Den fighters for some reason. But that’s fine. I’ll just wait it out until I can get these guys in somewhere where they can make a good living. Unfortunately right now, that’s not happening. It’s just strange to me when you look at it. The very first Superfight champion, which was the first belt given out for any single fight, was a Lion’s Den fighter, me. Then they split it up into two weight classes, 198 and below and 198 and above. Jerry Bohlander won that first tournament. Lion’s Den fighter. Guy Metzger won the second tournament. Lion’s Den fighter. Frank Shamrock won the third tournament. Lion’s Den fighter. So, the very first three middleweights to hold those straps were all Lion’s Den fighters.
PB: You also had a very successful career in the WWF. How does that compare with your MMA career or was it just a different chapter in your life?
KS: They really were both great opportunities, great experiences. It was quite a run. It was an awesome time, and I loved to do them both. I really couldn’t pick one over the other. To me it was just another challenge. Something I had to prove to myself that I could do. It really was awesome and I really enjoyed those times.
PB: You have made a career of being a tough guy. Who is someone that you feel is tough?
KS: Wow. Good question. There’s a lot of them. If I had to narrow it down, there’s one guy who I think never got the credit he deserved and that’s Mikey Burnett. I thought he was one of the toughest guys I ever trained. He had great hands, great wrestling, great jiu-jitsu, and when he fought Pat Miletich for the UFC welterweight belt, I really thought he had won. Of course I did. It could have went either way. It was very close, but they gave it to Pat. Mikey never really got the credit he deserved. He pushed Pat to the limit even though he had nowhere near the experience that Pat had.
PB: If you had to choose one fight to be remembered for, which one would it be?
KS: The second Royce fight. The one that went thirty six minutes.[The longest fight in UFC history] I think that fight showed a lot of technique, and the advancement of the sport. That fight showed takedowns, grappling, striking, control, and more than anything it showed the heart of a fighter. It had it all. A lot of the stuff in that fight might be lost on a casual fight fan. There really was a lot of great technique in that fight.
PB: Is there anyone that you wanted to fight, but never got a chance to?
KS: I would have to say Tito Ortiz, and I know that you are going to say, “But you did fight him”. I fought Tito repeatedly when I had multiple injuries. I was not even close to the fighter that I should’ve been for those fights. I went in injured and I convinced myself that I could just find a way to win. I just would have liked to been able to fight him with no injuries and with a full training camp.
PB: So did you and Tito really dislike each other, or was that all part of the game?
KS: Back then. Absolutely. But I don’t hold any grudges. What’s the point? The fight is over. I’ve always fueled my fights on animosity and I basically picked at it and picked at it until it exploded.
all photos courtesy of kenshamrock.com and ken shamrock’s official facebook page.