Love him or hate him, there's no denying Ken Shamrock's place in the history of MMA.
But with all the accolades, the UFC Hall of Famer's name in recent years has instead been attached to controversy. There's been questions as to why Shamrock, now 46, continues to fight (he's lost seven of his last nine), and in his lone recent win last year, tested positive for steroids.
In this exclusive interview below, Shamrock, who headlines this Saturday's Impact FC 2 pay-per-view from Sydney, Australia, talks about his next fight against fellow UFC old schooler Pedro Rizzo, his brother Frank's retirement, his recent confession of taking performance-enhancers and much more.
Ray Hui: What does this Pedro Rizzo fight mean to you at this point of your career?
Ken Shamrock: It's a fight I'm looking forward to. I remember he came in when I was already coming out of the UFC. He was an impressive standup fighter, good defensive takedown. But for me at this particular time of my career, to go and fight him is going to be big for me just for the fact that I'm going to know where I stand. I won my last fight with Grizzly (Ross Clifton). The fights before that I was injured and trying to fight. Now I get to go in the ring and be healthy and be able to go in there and make a statement.
Oh yeah, I'm a lot healthier than I've been in about four years. I was always trying to fight injuries or some sickness or something and it just seems like just time and time again I always came up with something: knee, shoulder or sickness. So, knock on wood, so far everything has been working out well.
Have you done anything differently for yourself to be injury-free for this camp?
No, I think it's just getting healthy. Going in the ring, like I said, I had the knee problems. I had the shoulder problems. Those things don't go away in a few months. Those are a year or two years for an ACL or a replacement in the shoulder. I struggled with those two different injuries for quite some time. I'm past that, so I'm ready to go into the ring really healthy.
Pedro Rizzo's strength is his boxing. What do you have to do to win?
It's basically making sure that he respects my standup. Once I hit him a few times, close the distance, bang with him and let him know I'm going to be in his face all night, then the takedowns are going to come a lot easier.
Since Rizzo is a name you've been familiar with, how would you access his current standing?
He's had some battles in his career. A lot if not most of them have been standup battles, so he's taken some shots to the head. I might test his chin a little bit and find out whether or not he still has that strong chin or not.
Before Rizzo strung together these last two wins, he's been shown to be susceptible to knockouts in losses to Josh Barnett and Gilbert Yvel. Is that something you're looking to exploit?
Well, I'm definitely going to give it a shot. I'm going to get in his face and I'm going to land some punches and I'm going to test him. It's something that has to happen for me to even be able to get a takedown. I got to be able to get in close and be able to punch him and make him respect my standup. And hopefully around that time, I'm going to be able to test his chin a little bit and see whether or not he can withstand some of my shots.
How long have you been in Australia?
I would have been here nine days, or 10 days by the time the fight gets here. I've given myself plenty of time to acclimate, plenty of time to get comfortable and I've had some different training sessions here to get used to the actual weather and different climate.
Part of the reason why you're headlining, I would imagine, is your ability to market the fight to the average person, especially for a growing MMA market in Australia.
Oh yeah, definitely, to let people know that I'm here. You hear a lot of times fights are on but people don't know the fights are going on, but with me being on the radio and doing lots of appearances, they definitely know I'm here. Ticket sales have done very well. Looks like we'll be sold out. It should be an exciting night.
Do you feel you're an ambassador of sorts?
It's a role I've been put on many times. It doesn't bother me at all.
Three weeks ago, Frank Shamrock announced his retirement. What are your thoughts on watching your adopted brother call it quits?
I guess whatever he's comfortable with. I know he's not as durable as a lot of fighters. He's sustained some injuries and I believe with Frank because he doesn't have the extreme strength or the aggression or the determination to this this. So when he gets an injury or several injuries, to fight through those, i just don't think that's in his personality. He would rather much be out doing something else.
Are you at peace with the fact that this "Blood Brothers" superfight that's been talked about for years will surely never happen?
I was at peace with it two or three years ago, because the different times that we tried to put it together, there was always a reason it didn't happen and it seemed like it was always being pointed at me. I had already known deep in my mind that this would never happen, just because the fact is, he would always try to find a way not to fight me. It was already in my mind. I knew this was never going to happen. No matter how many times we talked about doing it, there was always a thought in my mind it wouldn't happen.
Recently you appeared on Fighting Words and admitted to using steroids. Why did you come out with it now?
When I talked about using enhancement drugs, I've never stated when or how or where. There's a lot of speculation about when I did. But yeah, I've experienced them. Was it in fighting? I'm not going to say. It's like a double-edged sword. Was it when I was playing football during my time when I was weighing 246 pounds? I'm not going to say.
Just know this: There's a lot of stuff going on within our fight world. And if they truly, truly want to clean it up, and that's what they truly want to do, then they need to make the true effort to do it and not just test the money fights. You need to start from the bottom up and unless they do that, it's always going to be unfair. There's always going to be somebody that's going to be able to do it cause they made enough money to do it, and the ones that are trying to come up, they can't afford to do it, or can't afford to cheat. It's always going to be unbalanced and unfair. The thing I hate is when people are talking about testing and trying to clean the sport up, they're really not trying to do that. If they were, they would start from the bottom up.
Is it an issue with money?
If it's expensive, then don't go singling people out. So just because you can't afford to do it, you're going to single people out and catch them? It doesn't make sense to me. That's not trying to clean the sport up. If you can't afford to do it, you can't afford to do it. Period.
The episode doesn't air until Friday night, so I haven't seen the entire interview yet, but in the preview you talk about fans wanting their sport stars to look larger-than-life. For MMA, isn't this unnecessary? We have guys like Fedor, Shinya Aoki who excel in this sport without looking like a professional fighter.
I'm all for it. If you can make this an even playing field where that you know everybody going into the ring is going to be clean, then absolutely, Absolutely, I'm all for it. I've always been extremely gifted in strength. When I was in high school, I weighed 160 pounds and I benched 320. I've always been gifted in strength and athletic ability, but as I got older, I found out that this world is not fair, and that if you want to be a professional athlete, you're going to need to overcome a lot of obstacles with different people cheating. It's just the way it is. And sometimes you're not going to be able to get to the next level because someone else is willing to do it.
The poster boy of steroids accusations as of late is Alistair Overeem. Do you think he's being unfairly judged by the public?
Absolutely. Absolutely! Absolutely. Why? Does anyone have the right to point one finger at one person? When I think everyone has a pretty good handle on how many people are actually doing it, that you're going to single out one person, one person that someone wants to pick on because he looks extremely bigger than everyone else. So you're going to point that finger and single that person out because he looks freakish? But, there's many, many, many people that are doing it. What is fair about that? Why do we have the right to pick an individual out and ruin his life?
In Overeem's case, don't you think he stands out the most?
There's been a strikingly significant growth over the last several years to the point now that he has a physique of a real-life superhero. Just as a comparison, you look at GSP who is someone else as of late whose had to answer to accusations (that were later retracted) and he appears to look like the average athlete.
That's not true. That is not true. That's where your opinion is, that GSP looks normal. Because he's not 260 pounds or 240 pounds, but he's an extremely big 170 pounder. But because he's not this mammoth, he's safe. I'm not saying he is or he isn't, but what if he is? And he's extremely ripped and extremely muscular and he's put on 10 pounds of solid muscle since he's been in the UFC? And he's doing just as much as Overeem's doing? But yet, because he's a smaller fighter, we tag Overeem. What gives us that power to single out an individual and ruin that person's life? Nobody. Just because we think that he's doing something. And it's quite possibly that he is. But what makes him the person we want to be the poster child? What gives us the right to single out one individual and say, "you know what? you're worse than this guy because you look better. Because you're better." To me that doesn't make sense man. We're trying to play god.
With this recent admittance, are you trying to make a point? Or trying to raise awareness?
No. This is my opinion on it: If we're going to clean it up, then we need to stop making excuses and saying it's too expensive so we can't really do it right. Cause in that case, you're not really going to clean it up, you're just going to basically make it unfair. If you're not going to legitimately do it, leave it alone. If you are, please do. It would make the sport so much better. But, again, you gotta be able to go in and do it and not do it half-way.
You're no longer taking any banned substances now, for this fight?
No. Uh-uh (no).
You're approaching 17 years in the MMA business. Whether it's the challenge, to provide for your family ... As you've gotten older, has your reasons for stepping inside the ring changed?
When I first got into it, man. I came from a very difficult upbringing, being in the streets, juvenile hall, group homes. It was survival for me. It was a chance for me to become somebody. It was a chance for me to make it. Going into group homes and juvenile hall and things like that, over and over again, I heard things like "You're going to end up in prison," "you're going to be dead," "you're not going to be anybody." And so you're this angry kid that says, "You know what? That's not going to happen to me and no one is going to stop me."
What is it now?
Now it's comfortability. Now I'm comfortable. I got a good life. Good family. Everything to me now when I get in the ring is determination and pride.
When it's time for you to leave the fight game, how do you want to be remembered?
For me, first and foremost is that I'm a family man. That I love my family and that I'm a good father. The second thing is that I've always made time for my fans. Always, I think the fans are the most important thing in this business [and I make a point to] let them know that I appreciate their support over the years. To me, and that's why I always make times, when I go places and things like that, I always go out and meet and greet.