**This article was originally in UA #5, February 2002. During the UFC’s infancy, people saw Ken Shamrock as the “people’s champion”-he had the charisma, the muscles, and the skill-though he never won a tournament. Shamrock’s post-fight interview at Ultimate Ultimate ’96, where he called out Tank Abbott, probably spurred Vince McMahon to make him a WWF star. People were disappointed that he had to pull out of the fight; Don Frye won the show.
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So it’s no surprise that six years later, Shamrock, who will be 38, wants that shot against the two-time tournament winner Frye. “My strategy for this fight is to kick some ass,” Shamrock said laughing. “I never take anything personal; that’s something that I try not to do.
But in this situation and I can say this, it’s been a long time that I’m actually excited about wanting to fight somebody. Usually I’m fighting somebody that I know or somebody that I really don’t dislike, but this is going to be a sweet fight for me because I get to fight somebody that has done something wrong. There has to be a price to pay and that price is he has to fight me.”
The problem in question was how Frye went about baiting Shamrock. Instead of putting down Shamrock’s personal accomplishments or the Lion’s Den, he stepped over the line by bringing his family into it. “When you bring in wives or girlfriends or fathers or brothers and you start bringing in personal lives-saying, ‘Well, he did this to his dad . . .’-well, you know, whatever I did to my dad or whatever I did to my brother is irrelevant and none of their business,” exclaimed Shamrock. “That’s personal, family stuff and that doesn’t need to be brought up.
Of course, my dad didn’t help matters when he was angry at me and basically baited Don so it wasn’t all Don’s fault. My dad was definitely involved in it and unfortunately that happens.”
The Shamrock family of Ken, Bob, and Frank are rarely on speaking terms. While Frank had to make his move to step outside of his adoptive brother’s shadow, Ken had to come to the conclusion that his business affairs were better left handled elsewhere.
Today, the relationship isn’t much better. “It’s a hard thing because I know he [Bob] wants to be in my business and wants to help me with my career, but there has to be a point in time where if things don’t work out, he just needs to be my dad,” he said.
In addition to family problems, Shamrock has tried to keep the Lion’s Den afloat with schools and keeping his fighters busy. With Pete Williams and Guy Mezger losing their last two fights, Mikey Burnett not expected to return, and Tra Telligman getting knocked out in a recent boxing match, Shamrock acknowledges they are in a lull at the moment.
“We’ve been on top and then we slumbered a little bit and then we were on top again and now we’re slumbering a little bit and that’s the way things happen,” he said. “People figure us out and they start doing different things. We will adjust and we will continue to adjust and we will be back on top again. I have total confidence in Guy Mezger, Tra, Alex, and myself. We are right there at the top and we’re one punch away from being dominate again.”
But many, including members of the Lion’s Den, couldn’t understand why Shamrock made the move to pro wrestling-leaving behind a slew of new fighters who needed his guidance. “I know that when I first got out of the UFC and went to pro wrestling, I know there was a lot of discouragement with the fans wondering why I did it,” said Shamrock. “But I had to recover. My body was beat up and I needed to do something else. I was tired of fighting the same people over and over.”
“I’m very excited to be back and fighting in front of the United States on a live show,” exclaimed Shamrock. “And when they watch this one, they’re going to see a different Ken Shamrock. Before I was strictly a submission guy and now I’m well rounded and they’re going to see a lot of action.” Shamrock believes that he is mentally stronger than before, and physically he’s 100%. He’s had to overcome deficiencies in his training to keep what happened with Fujita in the past. “That was a fight where there was probably not a whole lot that I can do about it. I’m not too disappointed that that happened. It was a learning experience for me and it made me a better person.”
In March 2001, he was supposed to fight Igor Vovchanchyn, but had to pull out of the fight due to a neck injury. “I broke my neck when I was 17 and I got a fusion on it. I hadn’t had any problems with it up until the last year or so.” Knowing that his neck had been broken before, Shamrock believed that the tension and pain could not keep him focused in his training. Pulling out of the fight, fellow Lion’s Den member Tra Telligman beat Vovchanchyn by decision.
Working in Dallas with Guy Mezger, Alex Andrade, Pete Williams, Tra Telligman, and Travis Lutter, Shamrock tips the scales at 215 pounds and judging by these pictures, he’s training as hard as ever. For the weeks leading up to the fight, Shamrock will roll with people who will test his limits and force him to work past failure. Shamrock’s edge in this fight is his submission skills and if Frye takes it to the ground, he has to be careful of that threat.
Shamrock was not impressed with Frye’s performance against Yvel, but “Don’s going to bring it and this fight is not going to be a boring fight. I’m looking for this fight to be a fast-paced, hard punching, lot of groundwork and if it goes to a decision, we’re both going to be dog-ass tired,” he said. “Don’s definitely a good fighter-no doubt about it. But what he does not possess is the danger to submit me, or conditioning. I think the boxing part of it is where he is going to have to win it or he’s going to have to be able to take me down and control me.”
Shamrock believes that this will be a match that people want to see and he’s not concentrating on anything else. He does want to continue promoting shows and one day, get back into pro wrestling, but while he can, fighting is his career. “These are fights that people can sink their teeth into because they know both fighters from the earlier days,” he said. “It will create some pretty good excitement for the hardcore fans and it does look good on paper with the advertisements and stuff; it’s something [Pride] can promote. If they spend good money to go out there and do the right promotion and make it work, then I think they will be way ahead of the UFC because the UFC has made some bad deals.”
On the promotion side, Shamrock is well aware of his duty to tour with Pride nationwide in February, but he won’t be riding in the same car as his opponent. “My whole focus is hurting this guy. I’m not hurting him to be mean, but I’m going to win!”