Still banned in New York State, mixed martial arts will make a heavyweight splash at the Izod Center in Newark on Saturday when Strikeforce stages two quarterfinal matchups of its eight-man World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament. Retired 38-year-old MMA great Frank Shamrock spoke with amNY ahead of the event he will help broadcast on Showtime.
How did MMA go from spectacle to sport?
[In the late ’90s] we just sat down and really made it a sport — wrote the rules out, redefined the weight classes and, I guess, really gave what the politicians were looking for at the time to make it a sport. ... Now ... it’s one of the most regulated sports in the world, with the drug testing and steroid testing. ... We’ve still got that stigma dragging around with us as a bunch of Wild West cage-fighting weirdos. So we’re just constantly trying to re-educate and sort of redefine that.
Why is the sport growing so quickly?
I get why people are flocking to MMA. You know, it’s: "Whoa, oh, ho, hey! Oh, wait a minute. Oh, oh, oh! Okay. Tell me more. Who’s that guy?"
I don’t know how I’m going to transcribe that.
What’s the difference between the UFC — the dominant MMA league — and Strikeforce?
[The UFC’s] presentation is, the UFC is the most important thing — the brand itself, uch like the WWE is. We’re more interested in trying to find that guy: the next Muhammed Ali guy, the next guy that can beat everybody, the guy that I was at one time. ... We have to have a very global business idea. We have to put some of our business requirements aside to create a bigger dream.
What can people expect from the main event: Antonio Silva versus Fedor Emelianenko?
I see this fight as size and attrition against speed and accuracy. ... Fedor has amazing accuracy. He just throws his body behind punches, and he’s just destroying these guys.