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Monday March 24, 2008 4:54 AM PST


Frank Shamrock Q & A

By Gary Herman

Coming up on March 29th, Frank Shamrock steps back into the cage to take on fellow San Jose native Cung Le for the Strikeforce organization. Shamrock has been out of action since his June 2007 victory over heated rival Phil Baroni. Now, he returns to the cage against the undefeated yet largely untested Le.

We recently caught up with Shamrock to discuss a wide variety of topics including his thoughts on the fight with the Le, what he thinks about his brother Ken’s recent fight with Buzz Berry, and his views on Kimbo Slice being the front man for Elite XC’s first appearance on network television.

Question: What are your thoughts on the upcoming fight with San Sou expert Cung Le?

Frank Shamrock: I think it’s going to be a good match. It’s a different style match. I’m more of a grappler / puncher guy, and he’s more of a kicker / wrestler guy so stylistically, I think it is a very exciting match. And in San Jose, it’s huge.

Q: Why is it that mixed martial arts is so big in San Jose?

FS: San Jose is like a little big city. All the big companies are here, but at the core, it is a small town. And this town loves martial arts. There are umpteen number of MMA schools here. When you have local martial arts icons going against each other in a fight, it becomes a huge, huge event.

Q: As far as Le goes, he has not fought someone near your caliber in MMA. Do you think he’s ready to take on someone as accomplished as yourself?

FS: Personally, no. I have fought everyone for every title. I have been at this for about fourteen years now. When I look at Cung, he looks like a young boy, but the beauty of this sport is anything can happen at any time. There are so many different elements to (the fight) that anyone has a shot at winning. But if I were him - I wouldn’t fight me.

Q: Do you expect Cung Le to keep the fight standing? I know he has a wrestling background as well, but his expertise definitely seems to be on his feet.

FS: I believe he will start standing, but once he feels that I understand the striking game, he’ll go back to his roots, which really is wrestling. He has a very good wrestling base. He’ll try to combine the two to pick apart my striking game, but I think he is really underestimating my striking game.

Q: In your last fight against Phil Baroni – a noted striker, you stood and traded with him for a while before finally getting him to the ground and finishing the fight with a rear naked choke.

FS: Definitely. Everyone thought that was a fluke. But when I first retired from the sport, I really thought the sport would turn to a striking based sport because that is just the easiest way to damage somebody. Since 1999, my main focus and study has boxing, kicking, kneeing, and elbows – anything based in the striking arts. I think the world is going to have a big wake up call when it comes to my striking.

Q: Should you get past Cung Le, one man who has mentioned your name a few times is Tito Ortiz. Is that a fight you’d like to have in the future?

FS: Most definitely. Tito is a great character, and he has wonderful marketing power. The sport loves him. The fans love him. And our last fight was one of the best fights ever to happen. It also happened at a very pivotal time in our sport. It happened at a time when we were moving from the big, scary guys to the professional, athletic type fighters.

Q: Have you and Tito spoken about having a fight in the future?

FS: I sort of pitched him on the whole landscape of the business and where I thought we were going with television and how I thought - as stars – we could take some of that power for ourselves and use it to promote our own fight as opposed to having another company promote it for us.

Q: So should you guys fight, it would be under your own promotional banner?

FS: Yes, it would be Tito and I. I think the future of the sport especially with the big, big talent is much like Oscar De La Hoya is doing. That is to have your own promotional company plus another guy’s promotional companies then hire the people to run the event as opposed to those people owning the whole thing.

Q: What do you think of Tito Ortiz publicly announcing that he will be leaving the UFC – especially him Ortiz basing it on problems with Dana White when you yourself had problems with White as well?

FS: Eventually, when you do business with someone that has a very different business model and you are devalued as an athlete, you’re going to realize they are taking advantage of you and this is not a good situation. I just see it as a natural progression of the way they do business. The UFC is in it to promote the company, and that is one way to do business. The fighters are all in it to promote the talent, and the talent is the most important thing. People don’t go to the shows to see the company – they go to see the talent fighting. Their vision of the sport goes against the nature of the fighters. I see this happening more and more in the future.

Q: What’s interesting with what you say is that it is almost as if the UFC model is close to professional wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment. Whereas your model and EliteXC’s model is closer to boxing. Is that a fair assumption?

FS: 100%. The problem with running it like a WWE or staged event and controlling the talent is that these guys (MMA fighters) have a very limited lifespan. At the end of the lifespan, the MMA guys need to have something to show for it or the fighters will just be broken up old guys that have given you their bodies. You can only compete for a long time if it is staged because only then can you control how much damage you take and what the outcome is. When you do it for real and you are fighting for your life basically, the fighters have to be taken care of because you know they will not be competing twenty years later.

Q: So what you’re saying is the MMA guys can compete for maybe ten years but pro wrestlers can go on for a long time – which means you need a different business model than the UFC / WWE to protect the fighters.

FS: Yes. And it works that way. If you are going to have a guy work for you for thirty years, you can control the brand and vice versa. But if a guy makes it ten years in MMA, he is a stud. However, the injuries you sustain in MMA after ten years are astronomical. I have been fighting for fourteen years. I have broken my back. I have no ACL. My elbows are falling apart. There is only a limited lifespan for me left.

Q: How many fights do you think you have left?

FS: I think I have about twenty or thirty. Realistically though, for me, this is a way of life. I get up every day and go to the gym. I study martial arts. I couldn’t imagine doing a different way of life. Conversely, my body is so banged up that if I stopped training I’d probably fall apart. So for me, I am going to keep going until my body or mind say that’s it.

Q: Currently, you are basically the top guy for two promotions – Strikeforce and EliteXC. Do you feel any added pressure being put in that position for both promotions?

FS: That’s a good question. No, I don’t. I’ve always been that guy. I’m the guy that launches the company onto television and pay-per-view. Even though I was the guy that was fighting when we had the smallest audience possible on television and PPV, I’ve always been that go-to guy they call to do the show. I really like it. I’ve got two companies that both believe in the Frank Shamrock brand and who are both supporting me wholeheartedly. Moreover, I have two companies that allow me to present my brand the way I want to – not how they think I should be.

Q: You mentioned launching onto television. Recently, EliteXC signed the big CBS deal. Do you expect to be part of their first show at the end of May?

FS: I certainly hope so. I won’t be ready to fight by then, but I have done commentary for them in the past and Showtime really, really enjoyed it. I also really enjoyed the experience so yes; I hope I am part of it. I think it is a whole new audience. We’re going to have some overnight stars with some of these young guys. I think it is a milestone for the sport.

Q: What do you think of the fact that Kimbo Slice is being pushed as the biggest star fighting on the show?

FS: Kimbo has a weird aura about him. Personally, I think it’s a step back to where we were ten years ago which is the big, tough scary guy fighting, but he’s very, very popular with the young generation. His story is very interesting and appealing to people, but I also think they will quickly grow tired of it because it is kind of that gimmick story. The problem with Kimbo is the more he learns – the worse he’s going to get. He’s going to lose that raw, crazy, angry power that he is using to beat people.

Q: Do you think that Kimbo is a bad role model for kids considering how he made himself popular - through backyard fights? Could there potentially be a problem with the younger generation trying to copy Kimbo in order to get noticed?

FS: 100%. I think he is the absolute worst role model we could have for our events. This is coming from someone who has been here since the beginning. Having Kimbo as a representative as a face for the first big event on CBS is a step back.

Q: If you saw your own kids watching Kimbo Slice fights on the Internet, would you let them watch it?

FS: I don’t know. That’s a tough one. I’d probably let them watch it, but then I’d make them go to the martial arts class that night. It’s like I wouldn’t stop my son from watching car racing, but I wouldn’t let my son go race. But I would let him go to a racing school and learn about it.

Q: A little earlier we talked about your being involved with both EliteXC and Strikeforce. What is your current contract status?

FS: I have two more fights including this one with Strikeforce, and I’ve got another year and a half with EliteXC where I am under contract with them. Then, I become a free agent and I can roam around. I’ve been blessed that I understand the business side of it. I’ll be able to expand the brand of Frank Shamrock.

Q: As far as expanding the brand of Frank Shamrock, one of the fights that you’ve spoken about for a while now is a fight with your brother Ken. Ken recently lost a fight to relative unknown Buzz Berry. Does that loss affect the possible fight?

FS: You know it hasn’t in my eyes. I think the general fan of MMA may be questioning it, but I think the lure of that event is that first the idea of brother vs. brother is a very strong idea. It raises a lot of questions both internally and externally and then second, Ken and I really built this sport off our own backs and that story has never really been told. No promotion has ever really gotten behind that idea. I think that telling people that story combined with the animosity of Ken and I is very popular and would appeal to the masses.

Q: Are you concerned about Ken’s safety in continuing to fight?

FS: I just don’t want to see him get hurt or lose. Losing definitely hurts the value, and it makes my role different. I don’t want to be the younger brother that beats up his older brother that loses all the time. That’s not a very good story.

Q: Potentially, that is very much what the fight with Ken could look like though.

FS: I know. Sadly, that wasn’t the story I laid out.

Q: Are you disappointed he took that fight?

FS: I am very disappointed. That wasn’t my idea. It was against my better judgment. But when we hit CBS, you’re talking about a fan base that has never even seen a fight. They won’t know anything from anything. You’ll be able to tell the story how you want to. Most people won’t know the real history or the fight history. My belief is by the time we get into the ring – as long as he’s healthy and I’m healthy – the story will sell the fight. The fight will be a bit part in the actual story.

Q: I follow where you’re going with that. People won’t really know about the fight with Buzz Berry so it won’t take away from the brother vs. brother aspect of it. In the past, boxing has been successful building fights even though a fighter is coming off a loss. A few years back Zab Judah lost the welterweight title to relative unknown Carlos Baldomir. Regardless, they still went forward with the fight of Judah vs. Floyd Mayweather, and the fight did good numbers.

FS: Yes. We’re in the business of sports marketing. Fighting is the product that we sell. That fight can still be sold.

Q: Why do you think you’ve become so good as the business side of the sport – so good at marketing a fight?

FS: I saw early on the impact the one person could have if they presented themselves properly. Every moment that I have in the public – people are going to see it and remember it, and that will be the brand that I am. And I have always been a fan of pro wrestling. Nobody knows how to market better than pro wrestling.

Q: That is what pro wrestling is – it’s a show based on marketing.

FS: It definitely is a show. At the end of the day, people want entertainment. Some people chose that entertainment to be fighting.

Q: One question I have to ask – you’ve made some comments in a previous interview that you believe your brother Ken took steroids. Can I ask you for some more information on that?

FS: Sometimes, I think I have bit of truth tourette’s when I’m asked a question – I will always just answer the question asked. The reason why I never did steroids is because I watched Ken go through this terrible up and down cycle of being psychologically strong and psychologically weak. I always thought that my mind was my biggest asset when it came to fighting, and I realized that this drug was messing with his mind. I jus thought I should never go down that path. Personally, I think it messed with Ken.

Q: Did you actually see Ken use steroids?

FS: No, I didn’t see him do it. I never witnessed him shooting a steroid, but I have 100% factual knowledge that he was doing them consistently. Ken isn’t going to be happy with me, but who knows – maybe it will help build the fight.

Q: As far as being on the top fighters in the world right now, you are definitely a very highly regarded middleweight. The consensus best middleweight fighter in the world right now is Anderson Silva. What do you think about Anderson Silva and would there ever be a chance you would fight him?

FS: I would love to fight him. I think that he is a great fighter. Overall, he’s well rounded. If I were going to put negatives on him, he does not speak English, and he’s not good on the mic. He’s going to lose a tremendous amount of energy once the fight is over, and the interview time comes. From a marketing standpoint, he’s got 95% of the package together, but I think competitively it would be a wonderful fight. You know I laugh when people say Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world because I’ve been that guy two or three times so we’ll see if he can sustain it. If he can sustain it, he’ll be the next super superstar much like I have been and will be.

Q: There has been some talk of a reality show with your involvement and Mark Burnett’s. Is there anything new on that?

FS: I haven’t heard anything new on one with Mark Burnett, but we do have another show that is in the can called Frank Shamrock’s School of Hard Knocks. That one is for sale up on the market right now. I have been so focused on the fight that I don’t the exact status of the show.

Q: In closing, the fight is less than a week away. What will you be doing in this last week to get ready for the fight?

FS: The last week is the whole chill time for me. I do a lot of media. I spend some time with my wife because I haven’t been around much for the past month. This is my time to hang out and spend time with her. A lot of friends and family come to town so there is a lot of socializing. I go to the gym maybe an hour a day and just work on technique. I do a lot of reading and visualization. Then, the day before the fight I sleep all day and wake up about 5pm and have a massage. Finally, I get ready for the fight.


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