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Ken Shamrock Interview

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An Interview With Ken Shamrock: Thoughts on Randy Couture, Dana White, and Upcoming Tryouts

Posted by MMA Junkie on October 22, 2007 at 1:06 pm ET


Ken ShamrockHeavyweight champion Randy Couture isn’t the only UFC Hall of Famer who’s had a falling out with UFC President Dana White.


Before the UFC legend abruptly resigned from the UFC earlier this month, Ken Shamrock had his own issues with UFC management. After working to become the biggest name in mixed-martial arts — and becoming perhaps the first MMA superstar to get the sport international recognition — his relationship with the UFC soured to the point of being essentially nonexistent today.


MMAjunkie.com recently caught up with the MMA trailblazer to discuss his thoughts on Couture’s resignation, his own problems with the UFC, why a rumored fight with Michael Bisping never worked out, and even his open fighter tryouts he has set for Thursday.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: You’ve spent as much time with the UFC as just about anyone else. What was your reaction when you first heard the news that Randy Couture resigned from the UFC?

KEN SHAMROCK: It didn’t surprise me because of what they did to me. I basically sold my body to them. I mean I fought hurt all the time — and I got paid, of course… (UFC management) seems to think that the UFC is everything and that it doesn’t have to respect anybody. The guys who built this sport are thrown outside — the guys who were there before Dana White got there. Dana’s not a fighter, and he’s not a tough guy, and he walks around talking to people, treating people with disrespect, talks about people’s managers because he doesn’t like them. Randy Couture was an absolute gentleman in the sport. Myself, and Royce Gracie, and other people who developed the sport before Dana White ever got in there, he treats them like dog crap… The fans need to understand that the money that they’re putting into the UFC and spending is going into Dana White’s pocket and the Fertittas’ pocket. They made billions of dollars on this company, and they’re selling souls.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Kind of along those lines, I know Dana’s been quick to call it a retirement, though Randy’s saying it’s absolutely not a retirement. Did you go through that too? Did you feel like they were trying to force you into retirement?

KEN SHAMROCK: Absolutely. I mean that’s what everybody keeps asking me, ‘When are you coming out of retirement?’ I’m not retired. If I’ve ever seen a bully in my life — and I’ve seen a lot of bullies and I don’t like them — the UFC’s a bully. They push little organizations around, they talk bad about people that don’t march… in a line that they want them to march in. It’s just the way that they treat people man, it’s just sad, and the money that they’re making is going to them and not the talent. It’s the talent that is making them who they are. They’re not making it themselves; the talent is. But yet, they seem to think that it’s them. Randy Couture is a gentleman, a stand-up guy. For Dana White to say that he slapped his manager — and to think that Dana White is a promoter — what promotor goes around talking about someone’s talent whose made them millions of dollars and say that they slapped them? How immature is that?


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Why would the UFC be so quick to turn its back on Couture — or you for that matter?

KEN SHAMROCK: Well, it’s like this. I mean, yes, I was injured and I had a lot of things going on with myself, but I went in and fought anyways, and I lost. But, the things that I’d done prior to that, even when I was losing, I was selling more tickets than they had ever sold before. I was promoting the event, I was promoting the fight.. and there was absolutely no respect toward me as a person and as an employee of the company that did all this for them — none whatsoever. I’m not talking about the money. I’m just talking about the way that you’re treated. When this happened to Randy, it didn’t surprise me because they don’t have any respect for the talent. The only time they have respect for (fighters) is when they’re talking to their face and they have an event to do.



MMAJUNKIE.COM: After your final fight with Tito Ortiz (Oritz vs. Shamrock III in October 2006), did you tell the UFC that you wanted to keep the door open for a return?

KEN SHAMROCK: Well, the UFC breached my contract. I had one fight left on my contract, and they just told my agent and my attorney that they were terminating by contact for no reason.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: This was right at the time of that fight?

KEN SHAMROCK: Yeah, saying that my quality, my level of fighting can’t compete in the UFC. Buddy, they knew I had some injuries that I needed to let rest for a little bit so that I could come back and perform better. But the fights were coming back to back (in July and October 2006), and I was being put in these positions to where I had to fight. So, I did the fights. I had one fight left on my contract, and I wanted to make sure that this last fight that I had on the contact — that I was able to go in and be 100 percent. And then they cut my contract, which obviously is a breach.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: This past summer, there were some rumors of you possibly fighting Michael Bisping at UFC 75. What happened there? Had they talked to you about that?

KEN SHAMROCK: They never talked to me, but they talked to a reporter, and they talked to my agent and said the fight was offered to me. And then they (spun) it as if they never offered that fight. (Dana White) straight out lied to my agent — straight out lied to my agent — because he told a reporter and he also told my agent that that fight was offered if we wanted it. And I jumped at it because I knew, when they offered it, I would crush (Bisping). I saw him on ‘The Ultimate Fighter (3).’ He’s a good young talent. He’s going to be great one day, but he’s not where I’m at.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: You had mentioned that the UFC terminated your contract. Were they talking about a new contract for that Bisping fight?

KEN SHAMROCK: No. Like I said, I can’t go too much into that because we could have an ongoing process here.



KEN SHAMROCK: I can’t go into it. It was definitely offered and they did breach my contract. I had one fight left. So, I mean, it’s Dana White thinking that he created the world, and everything in it, and he created the human race, and people should bow down to him and do what he says and be happy with it and like whatever he says.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Obviously, you deal with a lot of young fighters, real prospects. If one of the guys that’s under your wing came to you and said he was thinking about signing with the UFC, what would you tell that fighter?

KEN SHAMROCK: I would say absolutely do it. It’s a dream. I mean the UFC is a dream for fighters to be involved in. I was very fortunate to be the first champion, the first superfight champion in the UFC, the first heavyweight superfight champion, and you know, I was part of the history of making it where it’s at today. And I know that there’s a lot of young kids coming up wishing they could be there fighting because it is the SuperBowl of fights right now. I would tell them, go for it. Just because Dana and I — or, I should say Dana has a problem with me because I don’t have one with him; I have a problem with what he has done to me and the disrespect towards me, but I don’t have a problem with the UFC. The UFC is a great place for fighters to go and fight. You just have to be careful how your contracts and different things are being done so that you’re not going to be hosed in the end because, unfortunately, the things that have happened to me and have happened to other fighters — and now to Randy — kind of tells you the tall tale of what goes on behind the scenes with the organization and contracts and the way they treat their talent. So I would say, yes, definitely follow your dream. Just make sure you got somebody there to take care of you and make sure that you’re not being hosed.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Do you think Dana White sometimes acts more with his heart than his head?

KEN SHAMROCK: Yeah. One of the issues that Dana White has is the fact that he wants to own the universe. He doesn’t want anybody else to come in there and have competition, and he’s (said) many times that ‘I’m going to crush that organization’ or ‘I’m going to crush that person. They don’t need to F with me.‘


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Has that happened with you?

KEN SHAMROCK: This is what caused Dana to let me go — because he had a vendetta with the International Fight League because he felt that they had stolen concepts or fights, or personnel of paperwork, or something. He tried to sue them. He lost in court, and that pissed him off. So, then I was going to put an IFL team together (in 2006) where I was going to be a coach, which was not against my (UFC) contract. There were no rules that I couldn’t corner my fighters in the IFL. I was going to go in the IFL and bring a team so some of my fighters could get some fights under their belt, get some exposure on TV because they weren’t going to get it with the UFC. They just weren’t there yet. So, Dana White tells me that if I go with the IFL, that he will not use me. I was like, ‘But I have a contract,’ and he said, ‘I’ll rip it up.’ I mean I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I thought well OK, I’m going to respect his wishes right now because I don’t want to ruffle the feathers and maybe he’ll get over this or whatever, so I did my thing later on and promoted my own shows, and then I put the team together. I get my fighters out there, they’re getting TV exposure, and Dana White cuts my contract. He cuts my contract and doesn’t give me a reason why. Obviously we know why. That’s personal. It’s nothing to do with business… He was pissed off because he had some employees who went to work for the IFL. And he said this to other people about the IFL that their scumbags, that they’re no good, and that they’re thieves and he’s going to crush them and that if anybody works for them, they won’t fight in the UFC. That to me is absolutely ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. It’s like saying he’s going to bitch slap Randy Couture’s agent — like he’s going to fight Tito Ortiz. What is this man doing?


MMAJUNKIE.COM: You know the industry as well as anyone? Will the UFC ever have any real competition?

KEN SHAMROCK: I just want people to really understand that Dana White is not the driving force behind the UFC. I know everybody’s going to say he is and put him out in the front because he’s the guy that’s going to get… the shaft if anything goes wrong, but it’s (Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta) really behind the UFC… Anyway, organizations that are going to come up and have to compete with them are going to have to have deep pockets, and they’re going to have to bring in big talent. They’re going to have to go in there and do what Dana White is doing to everybody else and buy up the talent. They’re going to have to go out and spend a lot of money, get that talent locked up and put on their event. Dana White went out and bought all the talent. He’s crushed everybody that’s tried to come up because they have the money to do it, so it’s going to take somebody with a lot of money in their pockets.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: I’ve got to ask. Are we going to see you fight again any time soon?

KEN SHAMROCK: Yeah. I just want to be part of a company that’s going places and treating fighters the right way. No place is perfect because all organizations are going to have issues. But you want to go somewhere where you want to put in your blood, sweat and tears — a place that respects the fighters and the fans.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: So you don’t feel the UFC is that type of company? They don’t reward that type of loyalty?

KEN SHAMROCK: Well yeah. The track record shows it. You’ve got how many hall-of-famers in the UFC? How many are still there working or doing something with them? Dana White has forced them all out. He doesn’t want them there.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: You make a really good point.

KEN SHAMROCK: Any of the UFC guys that are in the hall-of-fame are not there. Why is that? Every organization — baseball, football, boxing, you name it — when you’ve got a guy that’s made billions of dollars… they’re working for them. There are opportunities there to get a job in those sports. (The UFC) has nobody. They have pushed them all out. These are the people that built the organization, not Dana White. These fighters did.. They sacrificed family time, and they sacrificed their personal-life time. They got paid; we made money no question. But money does not give you a right to disrespect and sell them out and treat them like dirt. That doesn’t give you a right to do that. (Dana’s) done that to everybody that has built that organization and has brought it to where it’s at now. Dana White has turned his back on them.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Let’s switch gears and talk about your new gig with the International Fight League. You’ll be coaching a team. Can you tell me about the upcoming tryouts?

KEN SHAMROCK: We’ve got tryouts on (Oct. 25), and it’s to be on the Lion’s Den Team and also the IFL Lions and also we have team fights overseas, so we’re looking for people that want to join our teams because we have lot of spots open. We have a lot of events going on, so it’s a great opportunity for any young kids out there who are looking to break into this business. We’re looking for talent in all weight classes.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: What kind of fighters are you looking for. Veterans or youngsters?

KEN SHAMROCK: We’re looking for both. We’re looking for guys that can jump in and get it on right now. We’re also looking for guys that are just starting out in the business that we can grow and build into champions.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: Even if they don’t have a whole lot of experience, you’ll still consider guys like that?

KEN SHAMROCK: Yeah… I promote shows where guys have no fights, or they’ve only had about four fights, and also a range of guys from who have gotten a lot of fights. We would definitely give them experience in the ring. If they have the talent, and they have the desire to be a champion, man, we can train them.


MMAJUNKIE.COM: What was it about the IFL that made you want to get involved with them?

KEN SHAMROCK: I liked the concept of it where you got five guys going in different weight classes and they’re all training together. Each fight depends on whether or not you’re going to move into the next round and be able to compete for that final championship at the end of the year as a team. So, everybody works hard depending on each other. It’s a real camaraderie thing, they really bond, and they start working well together. And also, anybody on any team who is undefeated or has done well gets the opportunity to compete for a belt at the end of the year and individual belt in each weight class — the Grand Prix. So, it’s a real good concept.


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Ken Shamrock is one intimidating individual. I had the pleasure of sparring with him at Camp Pendleton in mid 2005. He was unbelievably strong.

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That's pretty cool, I'd be afraid to lock it up with Shamrock even in his current form.

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He was demonstrating how to use a blood choke correctly, and I had to be the one to ask "What do you do if they start to struggle?" He showed me what you do....

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Was he a nice guy or just all business?

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He was polite, and respectful to us, but at the same time, very determined to teach us. We treated him as a high leveled civilian, meaning, "Yes, sir" - "No, sir" - "Thank you sir, may I have another?"


I, along with a few other Marines worked out with him in the gym a few hours later. For being in his forties, the man can sure make a twenty year old blush.


I was alone with him for a minute, and I asked him about the WWF. He wasn't too thrilled to work there, and really had some negative feelings towards a few of the "tough guys" like Taker and JBL.

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Well that sounds like a pretty cool experience man. I'd love to be able to workout with a guy like Shamrock in person. I usually am stuck picking the brains of old powerlifters and bodybuilders on Dr Squat and Testosterone Nation. Since I'm starting my wrestling training it'd help to hear how a guy who did it trained for the sport.

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I doubt he had to do any real physical (weight lifting) training before joining the WWF. IIRC, he used mostly shoot moves in his matches.

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