Kenneth Wayne Shamrock (born Kenneth Wayne Kilpatrick; February 11, 1964) is an American mixed martial artist, UFC Hall of Famer and professional wrestler. Shamrock emerged as one of the biggest stars in the history of mixed martial arts, headlining over 15 main events and co-main events in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride Fighting Championships during the course of his career and set numerous pay per view records with his drawing power. Shamrock is widely considered to be a legendary figure and icon in the sport of mixed martial arts. Shamrock was namedThe World’s Most Dangerous Man by ABC News in a special entitled “The World’s Most Dangerous Things” in the early part of his UFC career, a moniker which has become synonymous as his nickname.
Shamrock became known early on in the UFC for his rivalry with Royce Gracie. After fighting to a draw with Gracie in the inaugural Superfight, he became the first UFC Superfight Champion after defeating Dan Severn at UFC 6; the title was eventually renamed the UFC Heavyweight Championshipwhen weight categories were introduced to the UFC. He was also the first foreign MMA Champion in Japan, winning the title of King of Pancrase. During his reign as the UFC Superfight Champion, he was widely considered the #1 mixed martial artist in the world. Shamrock was also ranked by Inside MMA as one of the top 10 greatest mixed martial arts fighters of all time.
Shamrock is the founder of the Lion’s Den mixed martial arts training camp. The Lion’s Den became one of the most successful camps in mixed martial arts history and was famous dominating the early scene of mixed martial arts. He is also the older adopted brother of former UFC champion Frank Shamrock.
In addition to his mixed martial arts career, Shamrock enjoyed considerable success in professional wrestling, achieving championship success during his tenures with the World Wrestling Federation and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Among other accolades, he is a one-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, one-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, one-time WWF Tag Team Champion, and the 1998 WWF King of the Ring. World Wrestling Entertainment—formerly the World Wrestling Federation—has credited Shamrock for popularizing the ankle lock (later used by fellow professional wrestling world champions Kurt Angle and Jack Swagger), which was named by the organization as the second best submission hold in its history.
Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling (1993–1996)
The origins of Shamrock’s mixed martial arts career began in the Japanese pro wrestling organization Fujiwara Gumi. On October 4, 1992, at the Tokyo Dome, a legitimate match between “Wayne” (Shamrock’s show title in Japan) Shamrock and kickboxing champion Don Nayaka Nielsen took place. Shamrock took Nielsen down and submitted him with an arm lock in 45 seconds. The success of this match made young pro wrestlers Shamrock,Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki question what they had been told since entering into predetermined wrestling: that nobody would ever pay to see real matches.
Shamrock, Funaki and Suzuki then founded a group of pro wrestlers and decided to pursue marketable legitimate matches. They formed a promotion called Pancrase, named by ’60s wrestling star Karl Gotch after the sport of Pankration in the ancient Olympics, which combined all different forms of fighting into one sport.Using pro-wrestling rules – no closed fisted punching to the head (closed fisted punches were allowed to the body), breaks on the ropes, but fighting for real – Shamrock beat his friend and mentor, MMA legend Masakatsu Funaki by arm-triangle choke in the main event of the very first Pancrase show on September 21, 1993.The show attracted a sell-out audience of 7,000.
Shamrock, now an enormous star in Japan, defeated world kickboxing champion and future UFC Heavyweight Champion Maurice Smith and Alex Cook in the Opening Round of the 16 man King of Pancrase Tournament and Masakatsu Funaki and Manabu Yamada in the Second Round to become the first King of Pancrase before crowds of 11,000 fans both nights at Tokyo’s Sumo Hall in December 1994.He then defended his King of Pancrase title against Bas Rutten in 1995, submitting him with a kneebar. He lost the title in his next fight against Pancrase co-creator, Minoru Suzuki.
In addition to his MMA bouts in Pancrase, Shamrock also competed in a kickboxing match in 1994 with kickboxing legend Frank “The Animal” Lobman, who holds a pro record of 110-6 with a 90% KO ratio. Shamrock broke Lobman’s nose with a right cross early in the bout but was ultimately defeated by TKO due to leg kicks.
Shamrock eventually had a falling out with Pancrase management in early 1996 and left the company to compete in the UFC full time. Shamrock left Pancrase with a record of 17-3.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (1993–1996)
On November 12, 1993, after the first three Pancrase shows, Shamrock returned to America to fight in the newly formed Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), despite fighting in Japan just four days earlier. Masakatsu Funaki served as Shamrock’s head trainer for the event. The event was held under a one-night tournament format with minimal rules (in contrast to Pancrase, which had extensive rules and a gentleman’s agreement not to strike on the ground). Shamrock’s first opponent was Patrick Smith. In the opening seconds of the fight, Smith came forward and threw a leg kick, but Shamrock shot off the kick for a double-leg takedown. Following some ground and pound, Shamrock seized Smith’s right leg and dropped back, applying a heel hook, forcing Smith to tap out.
First UFC rivalry: Ken Shamrock vs Royce Gracie
Shamrock’s opponent in the semi finals of UFC 1 was Royce Gracie. To start the fight, Gracie immediately shot for a takedown on Shamrock, who sprawled and following a brief scramble, ended up in Gracie’s open guard. Shamrock then grabbed Gracie’s ankle and sat back to attempt a heel hook. However, according to Shamrock, Shamrock’s arm had gotten tangled in Gracie’s gi and when Shamrock sat back, it pulled Gracie on top of him. Gracie then secured a rear naked choke and advanced to the finals. The bout was a source of controversy at the end because the referee did not see the tap and ordered the two fighters to continue fighting after Gracie had let go of the hold. Shamrock paused for a few seconds but declined, admitting to the ref that he tapped out and that it would not be fair for him to continue fighting. After the fight, Shamrock admitted that he underestimated Gracie: “I didn’t know who Royce Gracie was…when I saw him in his gi, I thought he was some karate guy (with no ground skills).” The loss to Gracie haunted Shamrock and was the beginning of a large rivalry between the two fighters.
Shamrock, haunted by his loss to Gracie, aggressively sought a rematch. He was originally scheduled to compete at UFC 2 but broke his hand after blocking a high kick while sparring with a teammate. He still wanted to compete, but when doctors told him that he might never fight again if he injured his hand any further, he reluctantly withdrew from the show.
On September 9, 1994, Shamrock returned to the octagon at UFC 3 in an event that was marketed by the UFC as the ultimate rematch between two-time champion Royce Gracie and #1 contender Ken Shamrock. Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki and Frank Shamrock served as Ken’s cornermen for the event. Shamrock’s first fight was against top ranked judo practitioner Christophe Leininger. Leininger was the #2 ranked judo player in the United States with U.S. Olympic team experience and was also versed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After a feeling out process to start the fight, Leininger engaged for a takedown, but Shamrock crossed faced him so hard into the mat that Leininger admitted to being knocked out for a second. After regaining full guard, Leininger attempted a triangle choke, but Shamrock defended it and took Leininger’s back. Leininger eventually rolled back to full guard, but after Shamrock landed a series of hard punches to his head, Leininger tapped out. Leininger suffered a mild concussion during this fight. Shamrock’s next fight was in the semifinals against kickboxer Felix Mitchell. Shamrock took Mitchell down and forced him to tap out due to a rear naked choke. Shamrock was shown limping significantly after his fight with Mitchell. He later revealed that he entered UFC 3 with a knee injury and aggravated the injury during the event.
With this win, Shamrock advanced to the finals of UFC 3. However, when Shamrock learned Gracie had dropped out of the tournament after his win over Kimo Leopoldo, Shamrock, combined with his knee injury, refused to come out for the finals. Bob Shamrock, Ken’s father, tried to explain to him how much money Shamrock would make by winning the championship, but he refused. “When something is taken from you, you lose everything…everything I trained for, everything I had wanted…you get so hyped up for it and now it’s gone!” Shamrock said. Alternate Steve Jennum took his place in the final and won the title, having not fought previously.
Shamrock was unable to compete in his rematch with Gracie at UFC 4 either, as he was fighting in the King of Pancrase Tournament to determine the first champion of Pancrase. Shamrock defeated Alex Cook and future UFC Heavyweight Champion Maurice Smith in the Opening Round and defeated top Japanese fighters Masakatsu Funaki and Manabu Yamada in the Second Round to win the tournament. With this win, Shamrock became the first King of Pancrase and became the first ever foreign champion in mixed martial arts history in Japan.
On April 5, 1995, at UFC 5, Shamrock finally got his rematch with Gracie in a match that would determine the UFC Champion. The match, called “The Superfight”, was the first singles match in UFC history and it was created to match the best fighters in the world against each other in a non-tournament format. At the time, Gracie had a reputation as being seemingly unbeatable, which resulted in the most highly anticipated match in UFC history to that date. UFC 5 drew a massive 260,000 pay per view buys, a record that stood all the way until Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell’s rematch in 2005 at UFC 52. The fight matched up the two current champions from arguably the biggest MMA promotions in the world at the time; Gracie, the current UFC champion, against Shamrock, the current Pancrase champion. Gracie had obvious concerns about his relative lack of size in comparison to Shamrock, so he came into the octagon at 190 pounds – roughly fifteen pounds above what had been his normal fighting weight; Shamrock also cut his weight down to 205 pounds for the bout.
Hours before the event, the UFC suddenly instituted a 30 minute time limit, mainly due to pay per view time constraints. Both Gracie and Shamrock were upset at the sudden rule change. For Shamrock, it ruined his game plan, who had been training for months to utilize his natural advantages in size and strength to wear Gracie down over the course of two hours, not in spectacular fashion but incrementally. “I didn’t want to just go out there and beat Royce,” said Shamrock. “I wanted to shut down his whole bragging system, which was, ‘We’re in better condition, our skills are better and we can beat anybody, anywhere, anytime’. My whole strategy going in was to wear him out, make him dog-assed tired to where he could hardly stand. I was going to beat him…beat on his ribs, slowly break him down and then treat him like a baby.” Shamrock did not change his strategy to better fit the sudden 30 minute time window which resulted in a dull match that did not live up to its high expectations. Shamrock and Gracie fought for the entire allotted time of 30 minutes along with 5 minutes of overtime before the match was declared a draw due to the fight not having judges.
The fight ended in a draw, but most people watching the fight feel that, if the UFC at the time had ringside judges, Shamrock would have easily won the decision. The fans reacted with displeasure after the fight because a winner was not determined. Fans have been calling for a rematch ever since and much talk has surfaced over the years between both sides about who would have won if there were no time limits in place. The Gracies feel that Royce’s jiu jitsu skills would have eventually won him the fight if it continued. Shamrock, however, feels that he was minutes away from finishing Gracie when time expired because he felt Gracie was badly hurt from the punch he landed to start the overtime period. In addition, the fact that Royce needed to be carried out of the octagon by his brothers after time expired showed Shamrock that Gracie did not have much left in the tank. Gracie’s larger than life reputation was dented for the first time in the UFC and with the melon sized welt closing Gracie’s eye after the fight it appeared as though Gracie had lost. However, the swollen eye was a result of a standing punch due to a sudden change of the rules in which both of the fighters were restarted on their feet.
Although many people viewed this fight as a dull match with little action, Shamrock did earn a lot of respect for this performance; back in those days, the Gracie guard was a mythical death trap and Shamrock became the first person to ever neutralize Royce Gracie’s jiu jitsu attack in the UFC. In addition, Shamrock also became the first person to visibly hurt Gracie in a fight. Some fans felt that Shamrock was the unofficial winner of the Superfight. Play by play commentator Bruce Beck said at the end of the fight, “Gracie is a mess. Shamrock looks marvellous!” Shamrock was also treated with a lot of adulation from the fans after the fight was over as if he was the winner, cheering him as he left the octagon with his arms raised.
Despite this, Shamrock was not satisfied with his performance against Gracie, saying “it’s certainly not a win. You gain nothing (with a draw)”. Shamrock expressed desire to fight Gracie again for a third time in 1996, saying that if it went to a draw again, he would have Gracie declared the winner and Shamrock would forfeit his UFC Superfight Championship belt to Gracie. Gracie left the UFC after his fight with Shamrock and did not return until 11 years later at UFC 60. Shamrock would headline the subsequent ‘superfight’ bouts in Gracie’s absence and became the main draw in the UFC.
Despite some fans holding the opinion that Shamrock unofficially won the UFC 5 Superfight with Gracie, the UFC was still without an official reigning Superfight champion. Shamrock was then matched up with UFC 5 tournament champion Dan Severn at UFC 6 on July 14, 1995 to determine the reigning champion of the UFC. The ‘superfight’, a match presented as a fight between the “best of the best”, was still the match that would determine the UFC champion and the tournament winners would be considered the #1 contender for the newly created UFC Superfight Championship, the first single world MMA championship outside of Japan. The Superfight title would later be renamed the UFC Heavyweight Championship when weight categories were introduced to the UFC. The Superfight title was created for the UFC 5 Superfight between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie, but since the match ended in a draw, the title remained vacant.
Before the match started, a storm was brewing between Severn and Shamrock, which led to the second major UFC rivalry: Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn. The feud began at the pre-fight press conference. After most of the attention from the media was given to Shamrock, Severn got up and walked out of the door without explanation. Shamrock took Severn’s action as a sign of disrespect. Severn later said that he walked out because he felt that it would be unfair to Shamrock for him to be present in the room while Shamrock was discussing his fight strategy to the media. Shamrock became even more furious when he found a newsletter back at the hotel that explained to readers how Severn was going to destroy Shamrock. Fueled by anger, Shamrock could not wait to fight Severn in the octagon. Shamrock, wearing his anger on his sleeve, came out very aggressive in the fight, shooting for a takedown in the opening seconds and then clinching with Severn, a Greco-Roman wrestling specialist. Shamrock proceeded to win the fight with Severn quickly and easily, choking out Severn in 2:14 to win the UFC Superfight Championship. Shamrock displayed excellent wrestling skills in this fight, having out-wrestled Severn, a four-time All-American Division 1 wrestler at Arizona State University. With this win, Shamrock became the reigning UFC Champion and became the man who the tournament winners would challenge for the title. As the UFC Superfight Champion, Ken Shamrock was considered by many to be the best no holds barred/mixed martial arts fighter in the world.
On September 8, 1995, at UFC 7, Shamrock successfully defended the UFC Superfight title against UFC 6 Tournament Champion “The Russian Bear” Oleg Taktarov, in what would have been a very lopsided decision victory for Shamrock if there had been judges. Shamrock went from coaching and cornering Oleg in his tournament finals fight at UFC 6 to having to fight him at the next UFC, a situation that made Shamrock uneasy. Shamrock stated in his autobiography that he was uncomfortable fighting Taktarov, as Oleg trained with the Lion’s Den and he did not wish to injure his friend and teammate. He claimed to be trying to open a cut on Taktarov’s face to get the referee to stop the fight because he knew that Oleg would never tap out. In Beyond the Lion’s Den, Shamrock states; “In addition to being his friend, I was also trying to get him into Pancrase and if I broke his leg it would be a while before he could recover and he needed the money. I figured my best chance of winning without seriously hurting him was to beat on him with punches… If I could open a cut and get him to start pouring blood, I could get a referee stoppage. It might not have been the best plan going into a fight, but considering the options it seemed like the best option available. And it turned out fine. I battered him around for the duration of the match, the bout was declared a draw and when Oleg recovered he went on to fight in Pancrase.” Longtime UFC cutman Leon Tabbs recalled Oleg’s condition after the fight: “I go in there to stop the bleeding and he’s halfway unconscious. He finally comes out of it and looks at me and says, ‘Leon, why did you stop the fight?’”
Shamrock then defended his belt against Kimo Leopoldo at UFC 8 in February 1996 in front of 13,000+ energetic fans in Puerto Rico. Kimo was best known at this time as the man who ended Royce Gracie’s consecutive UFC tournament wins dating back to their fight at UFC 3. Kimo was also coming off a dominant, brutal ground and pound victory over UFC 2 finalist Pat Smith at K-1 Legend in Japan. Kimo charged at Shamrock to start the fight and threw a kick, but Shamrock countered the kick by landing a hard right cross to Kimo’s jaw and simultaneously caught Kimo’s extended leg for a single leg takedown. Shamrock eventually passed his guard into full mount. Shamrock chose not to strike Kimo and instead went for a choke and allowed Kimo to reverse the position into Shamrock’s half guard. Kimo landed a heavy punch to swell Shamrock’s eye, but Shamrock regained full guard and spun for a kneebar from his back. Shamrock secured the kneebar, forcing Kimo to pound the mat in submission. With the win, Shamrock defended his UFC Superfight title for the second time and his title reign continued with no end in sight.
The Detroit Dance
After defending his UFC title at UFC 8, Shamrock was scheduled to face number one contender and rival Dan Severn at UFC 9 in a rematch of their fight at UFC 6, which Shamrock won by guillotine choke in 2:14. Severn was coming off winning the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 tournament and by all accounts Severn and Shamrock did not like each other. Their rematch at UFC 9 was highly anticipated and was marketed as the “Clash of the Titans 2″ and took place in the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan, in Severn’s home state.
Shamrock had a lot on the line at UFC 9; Sports Illustrated was there to do a story on him and if he beat Severn again, Shamrock was going to be on the magazine’s cover. In addition, he would also be featured in a story on the mainstream network CNN. Shamrock would be the first mixed martial artist ever to be featured on the cover of a major sports magazine, let alone the biggest one in America. However, despite high expectations, the fight would go down as one of the worst in MMA history for a variety of reasons. UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz, referee John McCarthy and a team of lawyers were in court until 4:30 p.m. on the day of the fight battling with the District Attorney of Michigan, who was trying to prevent the UFC from holding the event in Michigan. An ultimatum was issued: the fight could go on as long as there were no closed fisted strikes to the head and no headbutts. The UFC, desperate to put the show on, agreed to the terms. Fighters were warned hours before the show that they would be arrested if they punched to the head with a closed fist (although many fights that night included closed fisted punches, no fighters were arrested).
When Shamrock learned of the sudden rule change, he made up his mind that he was not going to fight. While training for UFC 9, Shamrock suffered a torn lateral meniscus, a partially torn ACL, a broken nose, and cracked ribs. Combined with the rule that he could not punch, he did not think he could win a fight because all of his weapons were taken away from him. Shamrock was also fearful that he would be arrested; the troubled boys from his father’s foster home would be watching him and he was afraid of setting a bad example. If Shamrock withdrew, the main event would have been cancelled and the UFC could have suffered substantial monetary damage. After UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz and other UFC officials pleaded with Shamrock to go on with the show, Shamrock, despite the injuries and new rules, reluctantly gave in to the pressure for the sake of the UFC.
In a fight that would be called “The Detroit Dance”, both Severn and Shamrock circled each other with little to no contact for a combined total of almost thirty minutes. “I took the center of the ring understanding that I was going to be fighting for my life and Dan never came at me,” Shamrock said. Severn later said that his strategy was to purposely not engage with Shamrock and wait for the fans to boo, hoping that the booing would affect Shamrock psychologically and force him to make a mistake that Severn could capitalize on. Finally, after over 15 minutes of stalling, Severn shot for a takedown, but was unsuccessful and following a brief scramble, Shamrock put Severn on his back in full mount. Shamrock held the mount for close to five minutes, throwing open fist palm strikes to Severn’s head and an occasional closed fist punch to the body. Shamrock felt as though he would have damaged Severn badly and perhaps finished him from this position of full mount if he was allowed to punch Severn in the face with a closed fist. Severn eventually gave his back in an attempt to get out and the risk paid off as Shamrock slid off Severn’s back and onto his back in full guard. Severn landed a headbutt to open a cut above Shamrock’s eye and followed with elbow strikes and punches from Shamrock’s guard. Shamrock eventually got back to his feet and after six more minutes stalling, the fight went to a judges decision. The judges gave a split decision win to Dan Severn, which upset Shamrock because he felt as though Severn had broken the rules by utilizing the banned closed fist punches to the head and headbutts. Chants of “boring!” and “Let’s go Red Wings!” were echoed throughout the arena during the fight. Shamrock later stated that going through with this fight was the biggest regret of his fighting career. This fight would mark the last time Masakatsu Funaki would serve as Ken Shamrock’s trainer and cornerman.
“[Ken Shamrock] was unreal strong back in the day. I got to roll with lots of the strong guys over the years…Dan Severn, Jeff Monson, Brock Lesnar, Matt Hughes. I don’t know that anyone was as strong as Ken back in the day.”
After taking time off away from the octagon, including being a guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Shamrock entered the UFC’s Ultimate Ultimate 96 in December 1996. Frank Shamrock served as Ken’s head cornerman for the event. Before the event, Shamrock promised to be aggressive in this fight to make up for the dance with Severn. Shamrock honored his word, beating Brian Johnston in the quarterfinals. Shamrock, however, broke the same hand during this fight that kept him out of UFC 2 and had to withdraw from the tournament.
Leaving MMA for the WWF (1997-1999)
After UFC 9, United States Senator John McCain was successful in pulling UFC pay-per-view broadcasts from numerous cable systems, including TCI cable, which greatly hurt pay-per-view revenue. Combined with money drying out and being burnt out from fighting, Shamrock left MMA for professional wrestling, signing with the World Wrestling Federation. Shamrock left MMA while he was seemingly at the top of his game; he was in his prime and he was at this time considered by many to be one of the best fighters in the world. Shamrock was never close to the same fighter after the transition to pro wrestling, largely due to the amount of injuries he received while in the WWF, including a serious neck injury he suffered in late 1999 during a feud with Chris Jericho and Curtis Hughes.
“Ken was untouchable when it came to holds back in the day. I never saw anyone tap Ken, including the Japanese who at the time were light years ahead of the world. I never caught him and never saw anyone else do it.”
Despite not competing in the UFC as a fighter while with the WWF, Shamrock continued to coach his Lion’s Den fighters in the UFC and even coached Mark Coleman at UFC 18. Shamrock left MMA with a professional record of 23 wins, 5 losses and 2 draws.
Controversy at the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round
On January 30, 2000, Shamrock was involved in one of the largest and most publicized controversies in MMA history. At the Pride Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round, Guy Mezger, one of Shamrock’s best fighters, fought Kazushi Sakuraba, who at the time was considered to be one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. Mezger took the fight on two weeks notice and had a broken foot going into the fight. The contract that Mezger signed stipulated that the fight would be one 15 minute round with no overtime. The fight mostly consisted of Mezger controlling the fight by stopping Sakuraba’s takedown attempts while landing strikes from the outside. The round ended and Mezger expected the fight to go to the judges, but Pride officials wanted the fight to go to overtime. This resulted in one of the largest and most publicized controversies in MMA history.
According to Mezger, Pride did not like the outcome of the fight and changed the agreement/contract on the spot in order to give Sakuraba another chance to win the fight. Ken Shamrock, Mezger’s corner man, entered the ring and an argument ensued. Mezger was then ordered out of the ring and back to the locker room by Shamrock, who was livid at the decision to extend the fight because of Mezger’s foot injury and the fact that he took the fight on short notice. Mezger said, “For some reason, I had a tremendous amount of energy for that 15 minutes, but I started to kind of wilt near the end. Then they called it a draw and I’m like, “What?” Everyone blames Ken for being unprofessional. Really, Ken was protecting his fighter. We had an agreement.
Sakuraba said, “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 (Mezger).”
PRIDE’s U.S. producer, Michael Braverman, said, “Kenny (Shamrock) went out of his mind. Kenny went crazy. He stormed into their (Pride administration’s) office. I was going, “This can’t be good.” He was furious. Have you ever seen Kenny mad? It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen. He could eat your head if he felt like it. Kenny foaming at the mouth is enough to scare the s— out of anybody.”
Later that night, the president of Pride FC made a public apology to Mezger at the Tokyo Dome for the miscommunication. Braverman added, “We had a big meeting (with PRIDE). We were able to get some concessions out of them, money and guarantees of future fights. They wanted to make it right. One thing I said in the meeting was, “Do you want me to call Kenny back in here and see what he says?” “No, no, no, no!”
Return to MMA- Pride Fighting Championships (2000–2002)
In early 2000, Shamrock made a comeback to the mixed martial arts scene following a 4 year hiatus from the WWF. He signed with Pride Fighting Championships and defeated Alexander Otsuka by TKO due to punches at the Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals in the superfight, his first fight back from the WWF. Shamrock displayed excellent striking in this fight and was very impressive as he was able to knock out Otsuka, something that powerful striker and top heavyweight Igor Vovchanchyn could not do to Otsuka in their fight a few months earlier. This was the first ever Pride event to be broadcast live in America and Pride strategically used Shamrock’s drawing power in America by making his Superfight with Otsuka the co-headliner of the event.
On August 27, 2000, Shamrock fought consensus top 10 heavyweight “Ironhead” Kazuyuki Fujita at Pride 10, who was coming off a huge upset victory over Mark Kerr. Fujita was highly accomplished wrestler in Japan; he missed making the Japanese Olympic wrestling team by one point and was also a national champion in Greco Roman wrestling. Fujita was also famous for his ability to take inhumane amounts of damage to his head without being knocked out (hence his nickname “Ironhead”) and for his ability to withstand a guillotine choke due to his strong neck.
Shamrock came into the fight with Fujita noticeably smaller than his previous fight with Otsuka, dropping roughly 15 pounds of weight. During the time before the fight, Shamrock was going through a divorce and had to take care of his young kids during the day, which severely cut into his training time for the fight. Despite this, Shamrock dominated Fujita throughout the entire fight, putting on a sprawl and brawl clinic and nearly knocking the iron chined Fujita out. However, he eventually had his corner throw in the towel because he felt like he was having a heart attack, ending an exciting fight in anticlimactic fashion. He was evaluated after the fight and it was determined that he was suffering from heart palpitations. Shamrock talked about what happened to him in an interview: “I’m not sure, even to this day, I’m not sure. Everything went white and I couldn’t see. My heart felt like it was pounding through my chest. I’m not quite sure what happened. I couldn’t control my vision, my balance, I don’t know what was wrong with me. I was going through a lot just then, I was going through a divorce and my 4 kids were dropped off on me in a two bedroom apartment, so I didn’t get to train properly for the fight. There was a lot going on in my life at the time and I think that there was a whole bunch of stress built up on me and it came out when I didn’t want it to.”
In December 2000, PRIDE tried to set up a dream fight between Ken Shamrock and then current PRIDE Grand Prix Champion, former UFC Heavyweight Champion and consensus #1 ranked heavyweight Mark Coleman. Shamrock and Coleman had trained together at the Lion’s Den in late 1998 to help prepare Coleman for his fight with Pedro Rizzo at UFC 18, in which Shamrock served as Coleman’s coach and cornerman. MMA fighter Ashe Bowman claimed he witnessed Shamrock knock Coleman out during one of their training sessions.
PRIDE offered the fight with Coleman to Shamrock and he accepted it. The dream match up with Shamrock greatly excited Coleman, but after training for a few days, Coleman decided that he was not physically ready to fight someone of Shamrock’s caliber. Coleman talked about his feelings on the fight in an interview: “For about a four day stand I contemplated taking the fight because it’s something that’s very hard to turn down. It’s a dream match up and a question I’ve been asked over and over again, whether I would fight Ken Shamrock. So I wanted to take the fight very badly, I turned up my training for about 4 days, then on Friday night I came to the conclusion that I’m just not physically ready to fight Ken Shamrock…Certainly if you’re going to fight someone with Ken Shamrock’s skills then you want to be as close to 100 percent as you can.”
In March 2001, Shamrock was scheduled to fight feared PRIDE superstar and top ranked heavyweight Igor Vovchanchyn at Pride 13, but re-injured his neck during training two weeks before the fight, the same serious neck injury that ended his WWF career and effectively ended Shamrock’s physical prime in late 1999. Tra Telligman, a Lion’s Den fighter, replaced Shamrock on two weeks notice and defeated Vovchanchyn in an upset victory.
Shamrock engaged in a feud with Don Frye during his career in the Pride Fighting Championships. The feud ended on February 24, 2002, at Pride 19– Bad Blood, where Shamrock fought Frye in the main event in a match that potentially had PRIDE Heavyweight Championship title implications (PRIDE FC considered giving the winner of this fight a title shot against current Pride heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira). Despite both Shamrock and Frye being regarded as past their primes, the matchup was highly anticipated and met with a great deal of excitement. In what many fans regard as one of the greatest MMA fights of all time, Shamrock lost an incredibly close split decision, despite successfully applying several leglocks on Frye, who refused to tap, ruining his knees and ankles and resulting in Frye becoming addicted to pain killers from the damage he suffered.
The background of the feud was Don Frye’s trash talking. In 1999, Alicia Webb (also known as Ryan Shamrock) dated Ken Shamrock until early 2003. Don Frye made comments to the effect that Shamrock cheated on and divorced his wife to date a young girl (Alicia Webb was 19 and Ken Shamrock was 35 when they started dating). Frye also joked that Ken’s (at the time) estranged father Bob and brother Frank would be in Frye’s corner for the fight. Ken Shamrock was enraged by Frye’s trash talk, causing a feud between Ken Shamrock and Don Frye. Since then, Frye has stated that he only resorted to personal trash talk to make Ken want to fight him. Frye said: “I saw Ken Shamrock whoop him (Dan Severn) at UFC 6 and I thought, “That’s a guy I gotta fight. Anybody who can whoop Dan Severn like that has gotta be a man and I want to test my size against his size. I had the chance to talk trash and they gave me the fight; I crossed the line. I wasn’t professional about it, but Ken was and after the fight, we shook hands and went our separate ways.” Frye also commented on how Shamrock injured his ankles: “I talked a bunch of trash, so I had to back it up. I couldn’t walk away after talking all that garbage. You’re damn right it hurt. He messed up both my ankles real bad. That caused me to start taking the pain pills and I got a little dependent on the pain meds for a couple of years.” Frye also said: “If I’d known it was going to hurt this bad, I’d have kept my mouth shut!”
ESPN’s Josh Gross attended the event from ringside and described his experience: “It was an all out war…I’ve taken the time to thank fighters for their efforts maybe three times. This was the first. The next day, as each man struggled to get on a bus in Tokyo that would take us back to Narita airport, I was stunned — and admittedly upset — by how beat up they were. Regular folk would be in an ICU. These guys were hardly normal.”
The two fighters have been on good terms since that match.
“All I know is that Ken Shamrock and I both left something in the ring that night. And neither one of us have been the same since. I don’t know if he will admit it but I’ll admit it.”
Many feel that the war with Frye was the last great bout of Shamrock’s career and his final showing as a top level MMA competitor. Both Frye and Shamrock would go on to greatly decline after this point.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (Second spell – 2002–2006)
Feud with Tito Ortiz and fighting to reclaim UFC championship gold for the second time
Shamrock’s Lion’s Den camp has engaged in a feud with former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz. The feud began to build on January 8, 1999, at UFC 18. After upsetting top UFC fighter and Lion’s Den member Jerry Bohlander, Ortiz, with his fingers, acted like he was shooting at the Lion’s Den corner and coach Ken Shamrock and additionally put on a disrespectful shirt in the octagon after the fight with Bohlander which read “I just f**ked your ass”.
On March 5, 1999, at UFC 19, the feud with Ortiz exploded in one of the biggest and most famous altercations in mixed martial arts history. After Ortiz won a referee stoppage in his rematch with Guy Mezger, Ortiz immediately flipped off the Lion’s Den corner and then put on a shirt that said “Gay Mezger is my Bitch”. The actions by Ortiz shocked and stunned the MMA world because at the time, the Lion’s Den was highly respected, arguably the most elite fight team in MMA and was composed of numerous top fighters. At the top was the leader, Ken Shamrock, who at the time still held a reputation as being one of the scariest and most skilled fighters associated with the UFC.
After Shamrock saw the shirt, he yelled into the octagon “Hey Tito, don’t let me see you wearing that shirt!”. Shamrock then famously leaped onto the top of the cage, screaming at Ortiz and angrily waving his finger in Ortiz’s face. Referee John McCarthy picked Ortiz up and carried him across the octagon to prevent the situation from escalating further, as a livid Shamrock was on the verge of jumping into the octagon.
Shamrock, who was still in the WWF at the time, was furious after the event. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva said: “SEG knew this was bad. Ken was really freaking out. Tables were getting flipped, who knows what was going to happen. So they have to usher Tito back to a room and get him away from the Lion’s Den. It was craziness, everybody was just looking at each other and saying, ‘Did I see that right? Did that shirt really say what I thought that it said?’ Everybody’s freaking out about it…there was such a buzz about it, everybody was running around everywhere.”
Ortiz’s manager, Sal Garcia, added: “one of the other fighters comes in at that point and says, ‘hey, Ken Shamrock and the Lion’s Den, they want to come over and kick Tito and Sal’s ass’.” The tension backstage was so great that some feared a brawl between the Lion’s Den and Tito Ortiz, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman and others from the Hammer House (who were in Ortiz’s locker room after the event). The situation was escalated to the point that police and security had to be called in to monitor the situation. Jeff Sherwood, creator of Sherdog.com, wrote after the event: “Someone needs to remind Ken Shamrock that it wasn’t Monday Night RAW out there. Not saying he wouldn’t tear Tito up though.”
Sherwood was not alone in his opinion that Shamrock would have been too much for Ortiz to deal with at the time. Shamrock had a reputation of thoroughly and brutally dominating everybody in training at the Lion’s Den, including top UFC fighters Guy Mezger and Jerry Bohlander, and Shamrock, at north of 240 lb (110 kg; 17 st), was considerably larger than Ortiz and would be a full weight class above him. Ortiz also expressed reluctance in confronting Shamrock, saying shortly after UFC 19:
|“||“Ken Shamrock is a big boy, I don’t know if I want to tangle with him.” -Tito Ortiz, March 5, 1999||”|
Many fans were upset that this fight probably would never happen due to the weight difference. However, over time, Shamrock began to lose size and by the time he fought Don Frye three years later in 2002, Shamrock was down to around 220 lbs, making it possible to cut weight to 205.
On November 22, 2002, at UFC 40, nearly four years after the confrontation at UFC 19, Shamrock returned to the UFC for the first time since December 1996 to fight Ortiz in a title match for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in one of the biggest, most anticipated and most important fights in UFC history. At nearly 39 years old, Shamrock’s skills had diminished significantly due to injuries and aging but he was still considered to be a very dangerous and strong opponent. Although it was understood that Shamrock was past his prime, many people gave Shamrock a good chance to win based on his size (Ortiz had not fought someone as big as Shamrock to that point in his career), punching power and submission skills. Shamrock’s apparent size advantage did not factor into the fight, however; Shamrock experienced difficultly cutting weight for the first time and cut too much weight, weighing in at 201 lbs, 4 lbs under the 205 lb. limit. Ortiz shed light upon his feelings before the fight in his book This is Gonna Hurt: The Life of a Mixed Martial Arts Champion; “Ken Shamrock is a real good fighter. I was not intimidated by him, but I guess you can say I was a little bit afraid.”
Color commentator Joe Rogan called the fight a “dream match” and “the most incredible night in mixed martial arts history” at the start of the show and admitted that he had no idea who was going to win the fight. The hype and buzz surrounding the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the event was unlike anything mixed martial arts had ever seen before. The event was also monumental for the future of the UFC and the sport as a whole in America for a variety of reasons. UFC 40 sold out the MGM Grand Arena and sold 150,000 pay per view buys, a rate over three times larger than the previous Zuffa events. It also garnered mainstream attention from massive media outlets such as ESPN and USA Today, something that was unfathomable for mixed martial arts at that point in time. Many have suggested that the success of UFC 40 and the anticipation for Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz saved the UFC from bankruptcy; the buyrates of the previous Zuffa shows averaged a mere 45,000 buys per event and the company was suffering deep monetary losses. The commercial success of UFC 40 provided a glimmer of hope for the UFC and kept alive the dream that mixed martial arts could become big. Long time UFC referee ”Big” John McCarthy said that he felt UFC 40 was the turning point in whether or not the sport of MMA would survive in America.
|“||“When that show (UFC 40) happened, I honestly felt like it was going to make it. Throughout the years, things were happening, and everything always looked bleak. It always looked like, this is it, this is going to be the last time. This is going to be the last year. But, when I was standing in the Octagon at UFC 40, I remember standing there before the Ortiz/Shamrock fight and looking around. The energy of that fight, it was phenomenal, and it was the first time I honestly said, it’s going to make it.” -”Big” John McCarthy||”|
Although many in the mixed martial arts media either deemed the fight too close to call or gave a slight edge to the younger Ortiz, the fight was not nearly as close as originally expected. Shamrock nearly scored a knockout early in round 1, buckling Ortiz’s knees with a punch and dropping him to one knee. However, Ortiz recovered shortly after and went on to dominate the fight with takedowns and ground-and-pound. The manner in which Ortiz easily secured numerous takedowns was surprising to some because Shamrock had displayed excellent wrestling and takedown defense throughout his career to that point. In addition, the fighters at the Lion’s Den claimed that nobody took Shamrock down in training. Shamrock provided excitement for the crowd at the end of rounds 2 and 3, dramatically scrambling to his feet after being dominated from his back, but was unable to mount any significant offense after getting up. Right before Round 4 started, Shamrock’s cornerman threw in the towel and Ortiz successfully defended the UFC light heavyweight championship.
After the fight was over, Shamrock revealed that he fought Ortiz with a serious knee injury (a torn ACL). Shamrock’s ACL injury explained his ineffective wrestling in the fight, which had been an enormous strength for Shamrock throughout his career prior to the Ortiz fight. Bruce Buffer has said on various occasions that this fight was one of the greatest fights he has ever seen and that the energy from the crowd that night was one of the greatest feelings he has ever experienced.
Shortly after the Ortiz fight, Shamrock seriously contemplated retirement from MMA, citing the fact that he had never lost two fights in a row in his career before and also citing a build up of injuries. Shamrock ultimately decided to not retire.
UFC Hall of Fame
On November 21, 2003, at UFC 45, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock became the first inductees to the UFC Hall of Fame. The event celebrated the 10th anniversary of the UFC. UFC President Dana White said;
|“||“We feel that no two individuals are more deserving than Royce and Ken to be the charter members. Their contributions to our sport, both inside and outside the Octagon, may never be equaled.”||”|
Shamrock spoke to the fans with a heartfelt speech: “Until now, I felt I had a satisfying career in the UFC. But, being one of the first to be inducted in the Hall of Fame brings it all together. I will never forget you and now I will not be forgotten. God bless.” A poll was also conducted on the UFC’s website among UFC fans to determine the most popular UFC fighters and Shamrock was voted the second most popular fighter in the UFC by the fans.
In 2003, Shamrock had surgery done to repair a torn ACL in his knee. Shamrock originally injured it during training in preparation for the Don Frye fight in February 2002 and completely tore it prior to his fight with Tito Ortiz in November 2002. Shamrock has said that since his knee injury, he has had difficulty shooting and taking people down, which resulted in Shamrock changing his primary style from a wrestler/grappler and moving more towards a standup fighter.
On June 19, 2004, at UFC 48, a 40-year-old Shamrock returned to fight the 244 lb (111 kg; 17.4 st) Kimo Leopoldo at UFC 48 in a rematch of the UFC 8 Superfight Championship match, which Shamrock won via submission due to a kneebar. Shamrock was coming off a long layoff to recover from ACL surgery. Kimo’s previous fight consisted of an impressive win over Shamrock’s longtime rival, Tank Abbott. Shamrock won the bout in the first round by KO via knee to the head. Shamrock’s knee strike to Kimo’s chin was so hard that he opened up a cut on his knee after landing the shot. Shamrock’s mega drawing power was evident when the pay per view numbers came out for the event; UFC 48 amazingly drew more pay per view buys than the ultra hyped super fight between mixed martial arts stars Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz one event earlier at UFC 47.
Shamrock injured his shoulder during his fight against Kimo at UFC 48. He originally thought it was just “wear and tear”, but a MRI revealed a rotator cuff tear. Shamrock had surgery to repair the tear in his shoulder.
On April 9, 2005, the most important event in UFC history to that point took place, the The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale. The UFC chose their unequivical #1 draw at the time, Ken Shamrock, to headline the main event in a light heavyweight bout on the popular reality series The Ultimate Fighter finale. The event was a monumental moment in UFC history because it was the first ever UFC appearance on basic cable TV and would be exposed to a brand new mainstream audience. Shamrock faced rising star and future UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin. Shamrock applied a heel hook early in the fight that put Franklin on crutches for a week, but Franklin escaped and defeated Shamrock by a TKO in the first round after taking advantage of a Shamrock slip while executing a high kick. At 41 years old, this was the first time Shamrock had ever been knocked out in a mixed martial arts fight in his career. Franklin’s win over an icon like Shamrock propelled him into UFC stardom and established him as one of the organization’s biggest stars.
On October 24, 2005, Shamrock lost to fellow mixed martial arts legend Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba in Pride: Fully Loaded, by TKO. The stoppage was very controversial because Shamrock immediately got up and protested to the referee, showing no signs of damage. There was also a feeling that PRIDE may have had a quick trigger on Shamrock because they were heavily biased in favor of the Japanese legend Sakuraba. However, his brother Frank Shamrock commented on the stoppage in an interview with the site Sherdog.com: “…if you’re sleeping with your head through the second rope, you’re in a bad way. He got clocked. He went down. According to the rules he was no longer defending himself and that’s the end of the fight.”
The Ultimate Fighter: Season 3
On November 19, 2005 at UFC 56, Dana White, the UFC president, announced that Shamrock would be one of the coaches (along with Tito Ortiz) for the upcoming third season of The Ultimate Fighter.
“In my opinion, Ken (Shamrock) is the greatest UFC fighter ever. And the scary thing about that is that he’s an even better trainer. “
The season unexpectedly turned out to be very problematic between Shamrock and his fighters. This was unexpected because Shamrock had a reputation for being an outstanding coach; he built one of the most successful MMA fight teams of all time, the legendary Lion’s Den and molded his Lion’s Den fighters into UFC Champions. Shamrock was portrayed very badly on the show, feuding with his fighters and often appearing uninterested. Shamrock admitted to doing a poor job with his fighters: “I failed them miserably, completely. So I have to figure out a way to get this…back in the driver’s seat”, Shamrock said during the show. The problems between Shamrock and his fighters on the show caused many newer fans to question Shamrock’s coaching style. Shamrock responded to his critics in an interview: “I trained three fighters that were the first three (UFC) Middleweight Champions: Jerry Bohlander, Guy Mezger and Frank Shamrock. And I’ve trained dozens of guys to be champs in other organizations. In Pancrase, I had eight fighters in the top ten at one point. I was the champion and (Masakatsu) Funaki was the number one contender. The rest were all Lion’s Den fighters. My reputation doesn’t have to be spoken for or defended. The UFC and Spike TV did what they thought they needed to do for ratings, but in the end, my fans, my family and my God know exactly who I am.” Shamrock also commented about his portrayal on “TUF”: “People always come up to me now and say, ‘They portrayed you in such a bad light on that show.’ That’s always how they phrase it. They portrayed you that way. I guess that means people really know what I’m like. They wouldn’t say that if they thought that was really me. It makes me feel better to know that people feel that way.” Roy Nelson also defended Shamrock as a coach. Roy said, “He’s not how they depict him on The Ultimate Fighter. He’s a good guy and he’s been in the business for a long time. He knows what works and what doesn’t.”
In a separate interview with UGO.com, Shamrock shed light upon the reason for the turmoil between himself and his fighters on “TUF”: “Anytime you’re put into a situation where the fighter or the trainer have to work with each other whether they mesh or not, it always becomes a problem. Then, when there are one or two guys you don’t really mesh with, then it trickles down to the rest of the team. Unfortunately for me, not that the fighters were bad or anything, I just got a bunch of guys on the team that I didn’t see eye to eye with. Me being a coach and running my own team for a long time, being able to call all the shots, it didn’t work very well for me to have guys telling me what they wanted to do…It’s a tough thing for a coach, especially for me. For so long I’ve been in control things and bring these guys up and nurture them and mold them into great fighters. I was very successful at that early on. But when I was thrown into that situation, I knew the score. I knew there could be problems and there were. I had a hard time with that. Other guys, like Tito (Ortiz) and Randy (Couture) really had some success with it. But for me it was difficult.”
On July 8, 2006, at UFC 61, the highly anticipated rematch between Shamrock and a heavily favored Tito Ortiz took place. The pay per view numbers set North American MMA records with 775,000 buys on pay-per-view and a $3.4 million gate. Not everyone, however, was thrilled with the fight. At 42 years old, Shamrock was significantly past his prime and no longer a championship caliber fighter. Former UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz said;
|“||“I didn’t like seeing Ken Shamrock fight Tito Ortiz the second time. It is a very difficult thing for a great athlete to, perhaps, comprehend that their time is past. And it’s hardest of all for a fighter. Boxing is full of stories where somebody just fights when they really shouldn’t any longer.”||”|
A small incident between Shamrock and Ortiz took place prior to the fight at the UFC 61 weigh-ins. After Shamrock weighed in at 206, Ortiz threw a fit, arguing that the fight contract was clear about the weight limit being 205. Nevada State rules, however, allow a fighter in a non-title match to go over the limit by one pound, so Shamrock’s weight was not against the rules. Ironically, Ortiz proceeded to weigh in at 206.5 lbs. and had to drop the half-pound before weighing in again.
Shamrock lost the rematch with Ortiz in 1:18 of the first round by a technical knockout in a fight that ended in chaotic controversy. Shamrock came out firing, landing a combination of punches to back Ortiz into the cage, but Ortiz successfully secured a double leg takedown on Shamrock, lifting him up and slamming him to the mat. Although Shamrock was now on his back in a disadvantageous position, he did have Ortiz in his full guard. Ortiz, while in Shamrock’s full guard, was able to land several elbows to Shamrock’s head which went undefended. Referee Herb Dean deemed that Shamrock was no longer able to intelligently defend himself and stopped the fight. Watching the slow-mo, Shamrock did go limp from one elbow but revived for the next. Shamrock and the crowd were furious at the early stoppage and Dana White immediately put together a rematch on television.
On October 10, 2006, at Ortiz vs Shamrock 3 – The Final Chapter, Shamrock was dominated again by Ortiz by KO after referee John McCarthy stopped the fight following multiple undefended fist strikes. The fight took place live on Spike TV. The two-hour broadcast drew a 3.1 overall rating, with the main event of Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock drawing a 4.3 rating. Quoting MMA Weekly’s Ivan Trembow, “That breaks down to an amazing 5.7 million viewers for the Ortiz vs. Shamrock fight. This shatters the UFC’s previous record for the number of people watching a UFC fight at any given time.” The overall ratings record would not be matched until UFC 75 on September 8, 2007. Immediately after the fight, Ortiz initially celebrated his victory with a mocking “grave digger” routine and an offensive t-shirt that said, “Punishing Him Into Retirement” after giving him the finger. However, Shamrock approached Ortiz and, after the two talked for several seconds, Shamrock said they could put all of their animosity aside as it was always “just business”, shaking hands and burying the hatchet. Ortiz then declared that facing Shamrock had made him a better fighter and thanked Ken for “passing the torch”. Ortiz added in his post-fight interview that he has always looked up to Shamrock. Shamrock gave a gracious speech after the fight but left it ambiguous whether he would retire from the sport. In an interview with Sherdog.com, he stated he was not leaning one way or another whether he will not fight again, but he did not want to lead the fans on. Ken also expressed his feelings after the match:
|“||“I thought I was going to be able to put on more of a fight, but reality sets in and I have to realize that I just don’t have the skills I used to have or the strength I used to have…I guess you come to a point where you figure, wow, I’m just not the same person I was. In my heart and my mind I’m still a competitor, but my body’s just not following. I just can’t compete with these guys anymore.”||”|
SPIKE TV President Kevin Kay credited Shamrock’s third fight with Ortiz as the beginning of mainstream advertisers coming into mixed martial arts. Kay said, “What [the Ortiz-Shamrock ratings] woke people up to was there’s an opportunity for 18-34s that is unexploited, and 18-to-34-year-old guys love this…I think one was it did, as you said, wake up the press to [the fact that] there’s something going on here that was unexpected.” Kay added, “when those numbers hit for Shamrock-Ortiz, it was, like, “We have to pay attention, and this is clearly getting a loyal young 18-34.” I think that was the beginning of more mainstream advertisers coming in to Spike and coming to the mixed martial arts.”
Ultimately, Shamrock’s feud with Ortiz was critically important for the UFC’s future and present day success. Shamrock and Ortiz’s trilogy, along with the emergence of stars like Chuck Liddell andRandy Couture, resulted in the sport’s explosion into the mainstream.
Release from UFC
Shamrock was rumored to fight Englishman Michael Bisping at UFC 75 but was ultimately released from his UFC contract shortly after in June 2007.
Shamrock expressed anger about his release, saying that he was released from the UFC solely because his decision to coach in the International Fight League. Shamrock said, “I talked to Dana White when I was fighting with Tito Ortiz on the Ultimate Fighter show and let him know there was an opportunity to get some of the Lion’s Den fighters some fights on the team concept in the IFL. Dana kind’ve flipped out on that, saying he was gonna squash them and kill them, and that they’re nothing but scumbags and he was gonna crush ‘em. And it just kind of took me off guard, and he was very upset at them. And I guess he took them to court and lost a lawsuit to them, so he was pretty upset about that, because he thought that they had taken some things from him or whatever, but they were found innocent of all that. So, I told him, “You know, it’s not like I’m fighting and it’s not against my contract to coach my fighters on a show.” And he said, “Well, if you do that, even if it’s not in your contract, you will never work for us again.” Which I thought was kind of a threat – it had no bearing on my contract and that he was just trying to push me around. And at that point, I went ahead, and – because I didn’t want to cause a problem at that point in time – I went ahead and said, “Alright, I’ll just wait until I’m done with the fight with Ortiz.” So, I finished the fight with Ortiz and then I went ahead and coached in the IFL. At that point, Dana White decided that he was going to go ahead and breach my contract and cut me loose.”
Shamrock then engaged in a feud with White in the media and ultimately sued the UFC for breach of contract, citing that he had one fight left on his deal that the UFC had to honor. Shamrock added, “I’ll tell you what I’m looking for right now. I’m looking for UFC to step up to the line, sit down, and start talking – and stop acting like children. Because what they’re doing … this is a multi-billion dollar business, and they’re acting like they’re in high school or kindergarten, and they just broke up with their girlfriend. I was a big part of their business in helping them make money. And they completely turned their back on me. And of course I’m angry. But you know what? I’m also a man, and I can sit down at the table and discuss things. But these guys have no intentions of doing that. The fact is, Dana White would rather go on the air and trash me and try and make me look bad and try and hurt my credibility, rather than step up like a man and sit down and let’s work this thing out…they’re hurting the people who built this sport. They didn’t do it themselves, this is what we call a “team”. They did their part, we did our part, and everybody should be holding up to their end of the bargain.
Shamrock ultimately lost his suit against the UFC and was ordered by the court to pay Zuffa’s attorney fees, totaling $175,000.
Post-UFC Career (2007–present)
In early 2007, Ken Shamrock became the coach of the Nevada Lions for the IFL. Roy Nelson, one of Shamrock’s fighters, was the reigning IFL Heavyweight Champion when the league was bought out and disbanded.
On March 8 at the Cage Rage 25, Shamrock fought Robert Berry, but lost in the first round by Technical knockout due to punches. It was announced on August 25 that Shamrock’s next opponent would be Kimbo Slice at Elite XC Saturday Night Fight Special on October 4, 2008. However, Shamrock would never get the chance as he was injured shortly before the two men were to start the bout. On the day of the fight, Shamrock was warming up and received a head butt which opened a cut. He needed 6 stitches and was not able to compete against Slice. The doctor who examined Ken said he would not be able to compete for at least 45 days because of the injury.
Ken Shamrock Productions co-promoted an event with War Gods on February 13, 2009, in which Ken fought in the main event against 6’6, 380 lb. Ross Clifton. Shamrock knocked Clifton down with a right hand and finished him via arm bar from side control in the first round. The fight was streamed live on Sherdog.com and had over 200,000 live views. Shamrock was then scheduled to fight fellow WWE alum Bobby Lashley, but tested positive for steroids after the Clifton fight and received a one year suspension. Shamrock’s manager and attorney Rod Donohoo said the fighter has adamantly denied the allegations.
Shamrock faced fellow UFC legend Pedro Rizzo on July 18, 2010 at an event called Impact Fighting Championships in Sydney, Australia. Shamrock lost by TKO due to leg kicks. His next fight was against Johnathan Ivey for the USA MMA promotion on October 16, 2010. Shamrock earned a unanimous decision against Ivey, with all three judges scoring the bout 30-27 for the 46-year-old. His most recent bout was against Mike Bourke on November 25, 2010 in Durban, South Africa for the King of the Cage promotion. Shamrock knocked Bourke down with a punch but was injured shortly after during a scramble and subsequently lost the bout via TKO (injury) in the first round, as he was unable to continue due to a leg injury.
Shamrock was scheduled to face Antony Rea at WEF 46 on April 22, 2011. Ken withdrew from the fight with Rea due to a staph infection.
Shamrock was scheduled to face boxer James Toney in a special rules bout, in which there would be 8 three minute rounds instead of the traditional 3 five minute rounds. There was also to be a ’30 second stand-up rule’ which means if the fight goes to the ground, after 30 seconds the referee will stand up the fighters. The time will be held if a submission hold is in place, and it will continue if the hold is broken or released. Despite these new rules, which gives James Toney more of an advantage, it was Shamrock who suggested it, saying it will make the fight more fun to watch. The fight has been placed in limbo as there hasn’t been an agreement for payment for both fighters, as well as Toney’s ambition to fight rising Russian boxing prospect Denis Lebedev at cruiserweight.
Shamrock currently has no fights scheduled.
Professional Wrestling Career
In 1988, Shamrock trained as a professional wrestler under Bob Sawyer, Buzz Sawyer and Nelson Royal. He debuted in 1990 in the Charlotte, North Carolina-based South Atlantic Pro Wrestling promotion under the ring name Wayne Shamrock. He later changed his ring name to just Shamrock and turnedheel, adopting the nickname “Mr. Wrestling”. In 1990, Shamrock travelled to Japan, where he competed in the Universal Wrestling Federation and its successor promotion, Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi.
His first taste of mixed martial arts came following the exodus of his mentors Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki from Fujiwara’s promotion to found one of the formative Japanese mixed martial arts associations, Pancrase. Later, he returned to America to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Shamrock would split time between the two organizations until 1996, whereupon he returned to professional wrestling, signing a contract with the World Wrestling Federation.
World Wrestling Federation (1997–1999)
Shamrock made his WWF debut on the February 24, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw. On March 23, 1997, Shamrock, identified as Ken Shamrock and billed as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”—a name given to him by ABC News, refereed a submission match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13.
Shamrock returned to the ring following WrestleMania, squashing Vernon White (one of his Lion’s Den students) in his debut WWF match. He went on to feud with Vader, Bret Hart and The Hart Foundation throughout 1997, culminating in a bout between Shamrock and The British Bulldog at SummerSlam 1997 which Shamrock lost after refusing to relinquish a chokehold, following Shamrock going on a rampage after being slapped across the face by The British Bulldog with a handful of dog-food. Shamrock was considered a candidate to win the WWF Championship from the departing Bret Hart, before the Montreal Screwjob occurred. Shamrock went on to challenge Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship at In Your House in December, defeating Michaels by disqualification after Triple H and Chyna interfered in the match.
Throughout early 1998, Shamrock feuded with WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia. He lost to Maivia via disqualification at the 1998 Royal Rumble and a victory over Maivia at WrestleMania XIV was reversed after Shamrock continued to apply his ankle lock after Maivia had submitted. In June 1998, Shamrock won the 1998 King of the Ring tournament, defeating Jeff Jarrett in the semi-finals and Maivia in the finals. Following the King of the Ring, Shamrock feuded with Owen Hart, with Hart defeating Shamrock in a “Hart Family Dungeon match” at Fully Loaded and Shamrock defeating Hart in a “Lion’s Den match” at SummerSlam. In September, he formed a short-lived stable with Mankind and The Rock.
Shamrock turned heel in October 1998 and won the vacant Intercontinental Championship on October 12, defeating X-Pac in the finals of an eight man tournament. In November, Shamrock consolidated his heel status by joining Mr. McMahon’s Corporation. On December 14, Shamrock and fellow Corporation member Big Boss Man defeated the New Age Outlaws for the WWF Tag Team Championship, making Shamrock a dual champion. The duo held the titles until January 25, 1999, when they lost to Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart.
In January 1999, Shamrock began feuding with Billy Gunn, Goldust and Val Venis, all of whom had made overtures to his sister, Ryan. He lost the Intercontinental Championship to Venis on February 14 when Gunn, the guest referee, delivered a fast count. Shamrock took part in a four way bout for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania XV. The reigning champion Road Dogg, was able to retain his title by pinning Goldust after Shamrock and Venis were counted out while brawling outside the ring.
In mid-1999, the Corporation began feuding with The Undertaker and his Ministry of Darkness, with The Undertaker’s minions repeatedly ambushing Shamrock and kidnapping Ryan, sacrificing her on the Undertaker’s symbol. After breaking away from the Corporation, thus turning face once more, Shamrock went on to feud with The Undertaker at Backlash and lost. In May, Shamrock, The Big Show, Mankind and Test formed The Union, a stable of wrestlers in opposition to the Corporate Ministry. The Union dissolved soon after defeating the Corporate Ministry at Over the Edge in May.
Shamrock briefly feuded with Jeff Jarrett before beginning a rivalry with martial artist Steve Blackman that saw he and Blackman fight one another in a series of unorthodox matches. The feud ended atSummerSlam 1999, where Shamrock defeated Blackman in a “Lion’s Den weapons match”. He went on to feud with the newly debuted Chris Jericho until departing the WWF in late 1999 in order to resume his mixed martial arts career. His departure was attributed to an injury inflicted by Jericho’s bodyguard, Mr. Hughes.
Ring of Honor (2002)
Shamrock returned to professional wrestling in March 2002 after being billed as The World’s Most Dangerous Man, refereeing a Ring of Honor match between Bryan Danielson and Low-Ki.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2002, 2004)
In May 2002, he signed a one year contract with the newly formed Total Nonstop Action Wrestling promotion. On the inaugural TNA pay-per-view on June 19, Shamrock won the vacant NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a Gauntlet for the Gold match, and is recognized as TNA’s first ever World Champion. After feuding with Malice for several weeks, Shamrock left TNA shortly after losing the title to Ron Killings on August 7. He briefly returned to TNA in June 2004 as an ally of Jeff Jarrett before leaving the company and the sport once more.
Juggalo Championship Wrestling (2009)
Shamrock made an appearance in the independent Wrestling company Juggalo Championship Wrestling, owned by Psychopathic Records, during their flagship annual event, Bloodymania 3.
Championships and accomplishments
Mixed martial arts
- Ultimate Fighting Championship
- UFC Superfight Championship (1 time, first)
- Longest Fight in UFC History UFC 5 at 36 minutes
- UFC Hall of Fame
- UFC Viewer’s Choice Award
- UFC 1 Tournament Semifinalist
- UFC 3 Tournament Finalist
- Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling
- King of Pancrase (1994)
- King of Pancrase Tournament winner
- PRIDE Fighting Championships
- Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals Superfight Winner
- World Mixed Martial Arts Association
- WMMAA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Black Belt Magazine
- 2000 Full-Contact Fighter of the Year
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- 2002 Feud of the Year vs. Tito Ortiz
- 2006 Feud of the Year vs. Tito Ortiz
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Most Improved Wrestler of the Year (1997)
- PWI ranked him #226 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003
- South Atlantic Pro Wrestling
- SAPW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wrestling Federation
- WWF Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- WWF Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Big Boss Man
- King of the Ring (1998)