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The Sad Spectacle of Ken Shamrock: An Aged Legend Dances for Nickels Down Under

Photo by Chris Dela Cruz/
Photo by Chris Dela Cruz/

I remember Ken Shamrock in the glory days. Shredding Pat Smith's leg. Tapping the mat three times against Royce Gracie. Showing the integrity to admit to referee Joao Alberto Barreto that he had indeed quit. Learning, growing, and coming back for UFC V to control the seemingly unbeatable Gracie.

Ken Shamrock helped make MMA. He was the biggest star in the promotion's glory days. When things got dicey, he used his newly built tough guy reputation to make big money with the WWE. When he returned to MMA, he helped spearhead Pride's first attempted invasion of America, and then showed Zuffa how it was done by making them a mint. In a third act with the UFC, he and Tito Ortiz set PPV records and were rolling in dough.

Ken Shamrock should be settling into a life of comfortable retirement. He should be introduced to the crowd during every UFC event to raucous applause. He should be making media appearances as the sport's elder statesman. Instead, Ken Shamrock is 46 years old, broke, and has burned his bridges with both the UFC and Showtime/CBS. So we get what we got last night.

It was a sad moment for the man who once inspired such fear and awe. Shamrock, wearing every one of his 46 years on his weathered face, was thrown to the wolves against Pedro Rizzo for Impact FC in Australia. Rizzo, one of the most successful and dangerous leg kickers of all time, wailed away on Shamrock's brittle bones. Each shot made the audience wince in empathy-it didn't help that Ken looked like he wanted to cry with every blow. 

Shamrock, who is a very proud man, tried to get out of the bout gracefully. In a moment of quiet desperation he dropped to a knee, practically begging referee "Big" John McCarthy to stop the fight. Rizzo looked to the referee as well. McCarthy, perhaps remembering Ken's vehement complaints about Herb Dean's "early" stoppage of the second Ortiz fight, forced Rizzo to inflict more punishment. It was a sad and pathetic moment, not just for Ken Shamrock, but for fans of mixed martial arts.

We've all seen athletes who didn't know it was time to hang it up. For every Bret Favre, who returns to form long after his salad days, there are ten Willie Mays, embarrassing themselves in unfamiliar jerseys and hanging on simply because they don't know what to do next. That's not the Ken Shamrock story. Ken Shamrock knows he shouldn't be fighting. Ken Shamrock doesn't want to be fighting. Ken Shamrock has to fight. He has no other options, and in a moment of candor after the fight, Shamrock let the worldwide audience know he was available for future beatings-at a cost.

"As long as the fans come and keep watching me, I'll keep getting beat up."