When Frank Shamrock puts his life in perspective, he does it by saying that he lives "in a very special world," an expression that sums up his fascinating 39-year existence on the earth. His childhood was so bad that he hardly remembers any of it. One point of his life saw him so hard on his luck that he was literally eating food out of garbage cans. But when he had the opportunity for a better life, he embraced it and never let go. Mixed martial arts was partly his salvation, and Shamrock rode the sport to riches and success, becoming one of the sport's early pioneers and best known names.
Because of MMA's role in turning his life around, Shamrock holds the sport dear, even when it doesn't love him the same way he loves it. And recently, he hasn't quite been feeling his affection returned. When the UFC's parent company bought Strikeforce in March 2011, it marked a depressing time for Shamrock, who had invested time and energy in helping to build the brand.
In fact, that simple business transaction between the two companies turned out to be at least one factor in Shamrock's recent struggle with alcoholism. Even though he acknowledges that it's not fair to lay the blame on two sides doing business, he can't deny its role as a contributing factor.
Shamrock made the admission in his new book, "Uncaged: My Life as a Champion MMA Fighter," released on Monday, and in a Monday interview on The MMA Hour, he discussed it further.
"I can’t pin my drinking issues on the sale of Strikeforce," he said. "It’s a genetic disease I've been fighting my whole life. But that was certainly the pinnacle of coming to the realization I shouldn't be out drinking. But I think it's because I fought so hard, and we had fought so hard against the unbeatable adversary, the UFC. I had so much personally invested in the vision or the dream or the chance of Strikeforce. It was my whole life. I didn't have another life. That’s all that I did. This whole experience and journey saved my life. It was a dark day. It was honestly a dark day when it was sold."
While at that time, Shamrock was best known as a Strikeforce commentator on the Showtime broadcasts, he said he was much more deeply invested in the promotion than that surface role. He was a spokesman, a brand consultant, and previously, he was a main event headliner.
Because of that hard work and his long-strained relationship with the UFC, he took pride in the small promotion's quick rise as some of their individual events began to rival those of their Las Vegas-based rival. Yet on one surprising day, that was all gone, leaving him in a new, unfamiliar situation.
"The intention was right," he said. "The sport came together to create Strikeforce. Scott [Coker] provided the opportunity and I had a few years left to throw in the cage. But it will never happen again. That moment is gone. I think that’s the toughest thing for me to accept, that the moment is gone."
Shamrock says that after the company changed hands, he found himself with more time. And where he was once involved in business meetings and charting the future, he was suddenly out "golfing and drinking all day."
"I always thought that the barrier of me not being an alcoholic or having problems was not wrecking a car, killing somebody or drunk driving, " he said. "I thought if you weren't doing that, you were just fine. It turns out, I had a problem for years."
Shamrock has since addressed the problem through sobriety meetings, and while he still works for Showtime as an analyst, he admits that it's not easy for him to look at a company he helped build struggling under new management. But it's not because of who's running it, but because of what they have done to it.
"Strikeforce is alive. It has a great soul but they've been picking the soul out of it and taking the talent out if it, and now it’s a shell," he said. "It could definitely be rebuilt. Strikeforce was amazing. The idea of it still has value but the way it’s being treated, they’re plucking all the value out of it."
The likely outcome in his opinion is that all of Strikeforce's talent will be swallowed up by the UFC and the brand will disappear.
That, of course, would lead to a situation where his place in the MMA landscape would be undetermined. Because the first-ever UFC light-heavyweight champion still has a strained relationship with the management at Zuffa, it's unlikely that he has a future there. Regardless, he says he still "absolutely loves" MMA and hopes to continue on in some role.
For now though, he is exploring different opportunities. Aside from writing the book, he is immersing himself in studying acting and working on a screenplay about his life story. He's taking on other commentating gigs, and has other business ventures completely outside of sports and entertainment.
The up-and-down life of Frank Shamrock made it through its last valley, and regardless of what the MMA world has in store for him, he says that life is looking back up.
"I used to live on the streets," he said. "I ended up in a prison. I've had the worst life you could ever imagine, and now I'm living the best life you could ever imagine. I mean, I rarely leave my house unless a limo pulls up. The world I live in is vastly different than what other people are living in. It’s a dream."