Ken Shamrock is a guy that I've thought about for a long time. Why wasn't he more successful? Why is he still fighting? Why did he always seem to blow it when it mattered most? I had to put it all on paper to figure it out, and I thought there would be nothing more fitting to open my new site with. This is a long post, and there is a link at the end. Please click on it if you have any feedback. Good, bad, or ugly. I hope you all enjoy it to the fullest.
For my first official “.com” feature, I’ve made the executive decision to go all ridiculous on you, my dear reader. Granted, this could mean a number of things. If I blogged about music, I could hit you over the head with a 1,000 word column on Jimmy Pop from the Bloodhound Gang being an underrated lyricist (“… when yer chokin’ yer chicken yer chick’ll be chokin’ on this chicken’s bone …”). This would be sad, but doable. If I liked to write about basketball, I’d try to explain why Andray Blatche of the Washington Wizards is a great leader who always takes good shots and would be a lock to pass any drug test at any time. This would be impossible, but don’t think I wouldn’t try.
I write about MMA, though. This being the case, the word “ridiculous” holds a special meaning to me. There are tons of ridiculous things that happen in MMA from week to week, but when we’re assigning the word to a specific person, one name stands above the rest. That name is Ken Shamrock.
Rest assured, this will not be a “he didn’t have anything to write about, so he just decided to shit on Ken Shamrock” column. This is a career that is so full of bizarre fights, shenanigans, ridiculous statements, pointless grudges, and other foolishness that I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t produce some sort of timeline. The combination of attitude, rampant steroid use, ego, and former “training methods” at the Lion’s Den (which he was in charge of) makes for a truly remarkable list of failures. I’m not doing this to bash Ken, and I’m not doing it to get attention (okay, maybe a little). I’m doing it because I honestly want to see what it looks like when you put it all in one place. Ken Shamrock is a sad person. Keep in mind, I’m leaving his coaching stint on TUF 3 off, because I promised I’d never write about the Ultimate Fighter again. Again: I will back all of this up.
November 1993: Ken Shamrock makes his UFC debut at UFC 1. He easily makes Patrick Smith scream in pain, then succumbs to a Royce Gracie rear naked choke in 57 seconds, saying afterwards “I’m just not used to this stuff.” This loss begins the first psychotic obsession he has with someone who beat him, which will go on to happen another 204 times (approximate).
July 1994: Ken tangles with a mustachioed Matt Hume in Pancrase, culminating in one of the most poorly executed finishing sequences ever. Put it this way: if this fight was legitimate, then I am a Samoan.
September 1994: At UFC 3, Ken chokes out Felix Mitchell and KO’s Christophe Leninger with a cross face, but when Royce Gracie is forced out of the tournament final because of hypoglycemia, Shamrock refuses to fight. Everyone pleads with him to fight, including his adoptive father Bob, reasoning that winning a UFC tournament and the prize money would still be a significant career boost, and that there would be another time to settle the score with Royce. No dice. Ken never won a UFC tournament.The rematch was a disappointment.
April 1995: After waiting nearly two years, Ken gets his coveted rematch with Royce. Unable to get the image of being submitted out of his mind, Ken lays in Royce’s guard for 36 minutes and settles for a draw. But I thought he’d go balls to the wall! Hang on, we’re just getting started.
May 1996: In a fight that was almost immediately dubbed “The Great Dance”, Ken stares at Dan Severn for 30 minutes and loses a split decision. Detroit ain’t been right since.
March 1999: Tito Ortiz gets his revenge against Guy Mezger at UFC 19, infamously donning a “Gay Mezger Is My Bitch” T-Shirt afterward. Shamrock was livid. This started another feud.
January 2000: After Lion’s Den stablemate Guy Mezger is told to go another round with Japanese superstar Kazushi Sakuraba despite only being under contract to fight one 15 minute round, Ken yells at Mezger to “Get out of the ring!”, like Mezger was a bad dog that crapped all over Shammy’s new rug. This was a constant theme with Ken: As much as he claimed to care about the careers and overall well-being of his fighters, he sure did seem to treat alot of them like shit.
Anyway, he then proceeds to get into the ring at yell at Sakuraba, as if this were somehow his fault. We did get a great quote from Sakuraba, though.
“I wanted to go another round, thinking it would be possible to salvage the match, but when it was decided to extend the fight, Ken Shamrock was making scary faces. Later I heard that Mezger’s contract was only for a one-round fight. I thought, “Ah, then it couldn’t be helped.” But Shamrock didn’t have to get so angry like that. Seeing Mezger getting scolded by him, I felt sorry for him”.
August 2000: After putting a hurtin’ on Japan’s Iron Head, Kazuyuki Fujita, Ken motions for his corner to throw in the towel, resulting in one of the most anti-climactic finishes ever. After the fight, Ken claims that he felt his heart beating out of his chest, and that he “saw white.” Later, it was learned that he was suffering from heart palpitations. Hmmmmmm.
(I’m not killing Shamrock for quitting here. If he was worried about his health and he couldn’t see, then I’m all for throwing the towel in. But this fight just shows you that even when Shamrock looked fantastic, his body or his brain seemed to find a way to blow it. It was always something with this guy.)
February 2002: After YET ANOTHER publicized feud with Don Frye (which basically amounted to “Frye talks trash, Shammy can’t think of a comeback, and Shammy decides to take it personally and flip out as much as possible, possibly expending more energy being disgusted and outraged than he did in actual training”), the two lock horns in a back-and-forth war that ends with a split decision nod for Frye. For some reason, Ken obliges and actually shows Frye some measure of respect afterwards. To be fair, this fight showcased the best and worst of Ken. He turned Frye’s legs into baby food with several cringe-worthy footlocks, but Frye was able to win a squeaker by dropping Shamrock in a feverish punching exchange.“I can’t stop screaming at people that aren’t to blame!”
October 2005: Shammy gets tagged by a Kazushi Sakuraba left hand, turns his back to him, and goes to sleep in the ropes for exactly one second before the ref jumps in and stops the fight. Shamrock vehemently protests the stoppage, which was a weird thing to watch considering he just woke up.
July 2006: Shamrock gets pummeled by Tito Ortiz in their rematch, going to sleep against the cage and then being awakened by a Ortiz elbow. You’re not going to believe this, but Shammy was pissed, and protested the stoppage.
October 2006: After nonstop pissing and moaning and excuse-making, Zuffa sets up a third fight against Ortiz. For my money, this was the most one-sided, pointless third fight ever, unless you count the times my buddies’ dad kicked his ass when he was little. Tito smashes him again. By the way, are you all aware that if it weren’t for Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz would have exactly ONE victory since 2006? Incredible.
September 2008: Preparing backstage for his fight with internet sensation Kimbo Slice, Ken sustains a mysterious cut over his eye. He can’t fight. This leads to Elite XC scrambling to find a replacement. They settle on Seth Petruzelli, who knocks Slice out in 14 seconds and runs his mouth enough after the fight that Elite XC actually folds.
I’ll let Frank Shamrock take it from here:
“I think Ken cut himself. It goes back to his giant ego and not being smart enough to understand the rest of the business. I think he got upset because Kimbo was making twice as much as he was and I don’t think his ego could take it. I know for a fact that he tried to hold the network up for more money the day before the show and unfortunately his parting words were, “Well, then you never know what will happen because anything can happen.” Then when he showed up with the cut we all thought he juiced himself. You know, he’s not to be trusted … a real fighter would have superglued it and put makeup on it and been and would have been out there fighting. Which (is something) I have done and many fighters have done many times … I have no idea what he’s doing. I just hope when he’s finished destroying himself that he has something left to live by.”
Now, granted, hearing Frank Shamrock commenting on someone’s ego is kind of like hearing Keith Richards telling kids not to do drugs. This is true. But consider this: Ken had pulled out of multiple fights for reasons that are known only to him. He’s quit in fights for reasons known only to him. Doesn’t this explanation make some sort of sense? Did Frank Shamrock make sense here, or am I crazy?
If you had given Ken Shamrock the mentality and attitude of someone like Jim Miller in 1993, we’d consider him one of the best fighter’s we’ve ever seen. Nobody tapped out Ken Shamrock. The guy was great at submissions, and could also strike ably for his time. This is a guy that should have been able to garner far more accolades than he actually did. But he didn’t. And he didn’t because of his weirdly gigantic ego.
(Real quick, before I finish up: Even though I have no problem with PED use in mixed martial arts, it’s hard to argue against the fact that steroids turned Shammy’s brain into mush over the years. Is this due to his pro wrestling days? Probably. But still. Take performance enhancers all you want, but just remember the risks.)
Since it feels like I outlined my reasons for creating this timeline decades ago, I’m going to do that move Donald Rumsfeld used to do where he’d ask himself rhetorical questions and answer them himself. Has Ken Shamrock ever lost a fight or gotten the short end of the stick in any situation without having some sort of elaborate excuse about how he “wasn’t able to train properly”? Nope. Has Ken Shamrock ever been taken to task for basically enslaving guys at the Lions Den, doing things like waking them up from a dead sleep, choking them out, and then calling them pussies? Probably not. Has Ken Shamrock ever woken up in the middle of the night and asked himself “If I had invested even one fifth of the energy into training as I did into pursing my lips, micro-managing my fighters’ careers, treating them like infants in the process, speaking before thinking and freaking out as much as possible, maybe I would have been a more successful mixed martial artist?” That’s the part I’m unsure of. But honestly, I doubt it. The world is out to get Ken Shamrock, and after continuing to willingly “just go in there and get beat up”, I think it finally caught him.