Two weeks ago, when Spike TV aired its "Bound by Blood" documentary, a lot of viewers, seeing how the show was being built, figured the purpose was to set up the elusive Frank Shamrock vs. Ken Shamrock pay-per-view concept floated some five years ago.
But in the show's final minutes, almost on cue as the two adopted brothers were sitting in chairs right in front of each other for the first time in 16 years, Ken brought up that the only way to settle this would be to fight it out. Frank then stunned much of the viewing audience by saying he had no interest and was not a fighter any longer.
"We had an opportunity to fight a long time before," said Frank Shamrock in reflecting on what was a highly-praised special, arguably the best show of its kind that Spike has ever produced on MMA. "I worked really hard on it and it didn't pan out. That wasn't my idea for the documentary. I'm retired. I can't imagine anyone punching on me or hitting me. It's not even in my consciousness."
The idea of a fight between two men who share the same famous last name, who were both adopted by the same man, has been floated since 1996. Pancrase, the first modern MMA organization, which both started out with as two of the three top foreign stars (with Bas Rutten), wanted to match them up. Both were strongly opposed to the idea and it never got past the early promotional stage.
But in 2007 and 2008, both Shamrocks, long since estranged, were looking to do a fight that fell apart on two occasions. The first was when Ken went to London, England for what was supposed to be a tune-up fight on Showtime with mid-level heavyweight Robert "Buzz" Berry, and was knocked out in the first round.
That was thought to be the death knell. but after a few months, the idea was back on the table. The realization was that most fans had no idea the Berry fight had even taken place, and Shamrock had a chance to resurrect his career with a CBS network main event against Kimbo Slice that would have been among the most-watched MMA fights ever in the U.S.
Ken Shamrock had complained about money the day before the fight, claiming he was promised he would be the highest paid guy on the show. Then he found out Andrei Arlovski was earning more than he was. The promoters noted Arlovski was under contract to Affliction, who was paying Arlovski's contracted salary for the fight, not Elite XC or CBS. Ken Shamrock showed up the day of the fight with a fresh cut near his eye, that needed stitches, from an accident while rolling.
Ken has always insisted the argument over money and the cut were just coincidental, past the point of admitting he was rolling to blow off stream. CBS saw it as a threat he had made the day before playing out. Shamrock wasn't allowed to fight by the Florida commission, setting the stage for one of the craziest days in MMA history. Late replacement Seth Petruzelli knocked out Slice in seconds. CBS officials after the fact made it clear that they would never do business with Ken Shamrock again
"Now that I got older, looking back, it's best that it didn't happen," said Frank Shamrock, who has mixed feelings, because he also feels it would have been the biggest money fight he'd have had in his career. "When I first started working on it, it was out of malice. I wanted to kick Ken's ass. Ken's an a--hole sometimes and I've got my issues. When it started, it was all out of bad intentions. When I got further into it, when I worked on the business side, I realized what it could be. My thoughts changed.
"I was thinking maybe I could pay back what's been given to me from Ken. I know Ken doesn't have the business ability and I thought, `How do you pay back someone who gave you what I've been given. At the time I was still a fighter."'
But it's still that part of his career that he looks back at as the potential biggest fight that never happened. "All the projects I wanted to do, I did, except the Ken thing," he said. "But that time has passed."
Perhaps Frank Shamrock's career will best be remembered for his Sept. 24, 1999, title defense against Tito Ortiz. Few expected him to win, given the size difference, even though he was coming in with what is still among the most impressive title runs in UFC history. Depending on whose story one would believe, the word at the arena in Lake Charles, La., where the fight took place, was that after rehydrating, Ortiz was between 217 and 222 pounds. Shamrock;s walk-around weight was just under 190. He'd actually eat heavily before fights to get to 192 or 193 and looked two weight classes smaller.
The first three rounds saw Ortiz on top, with Shamrock, bloodied up but very active from the bottom. Late in the third round, you could see the tide had turned. Shamrock scrambled off the bottom late in the fourth round, and finished Ortiz with strikes on he ground. At the time, it was almost universally viewed as the greatest fight in UFC history, even if its existence has in many circles been erased from company history due to Shamrock not getting along with UFC President Dana White.
He won numerous Fighter of the Decade awards after going 5-0 in title matches in UFC, all by clean finish, two of the title wins lasting less than 30 seconds. He then retired for the first time, because there was little money in the sport and his body was taking a beating by constantly fighting men who outweighed him 20 to 30 pounds when they stepped into the cage.
He came back a few times, most notably in 2006, when Strikeforce was formed.
Shamrock was the big star of Strikeforce in its early years, until age and injuries caught up with him while in the ring with Nick Diaz in what turned out to be his final fight in 2009. Diaz was quicker and was eating Shamrock alive standing. Shamrock was plagued by a serious rib injury and never should have gone through with the fight.
"I didn't know I was doing badly in that fight until about three minutes into the first round, I could feel the crowd change. That made me feel that something was happening to me. Until that moment, I thought, `I'm good. I'm feeling a little tired, but I'm good.' But I could feel the energy of the crowd. I couldn't see what was happening. From that point on, I could feel he was better than me, he was beating the s*** out of me. That was the weirdest thing," Shamrock said.
Shamrock may be involved with the broadcast of the No. 2 Bellator pay-per-view, which features Ortiz, 38, coming off a retirement and major knee surgery, facing Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson in the main event.
"I think they're crazy," when asked about guys who come out of retirement after all the injuries they've had, like Ortiz. "I look back at my life fighting and I can't believe I did all that. This sport is totally nuts.
"I hope those guys perform well," he said. "I know what it's like to be older and banged up."
He recognizes the entire event is a shot in the dark.
"Nobody ever made money on pay-per-view except the UFC," he said. "It's a challenge. We've got some weathered stars. Unless they really ramp this thing up, I just see it as being a good pay-per-view."
For all their ups and downs stemming from Frank Shamrock leaving the Lion's Den and going out on his own in 1997, and then winning the UFC middleweight (now light heavyweight) title and becoming the sport's biggest star of the so-called dark ages, it was still Ken Shamrock who trained Frank. And Ken was the reason Frank became a fighter.
"I wasn't fighting because I was a sportsman," Frank noted. "I was fighting because I had no other way. I didn't have a career. I was a multi-felony convicted guy."
Frank noted that growing up he saw very little television, but his stepfather would watch boxing and pro wrestling. There was no such thing as MMA at the time. In his mind he believed some day he would be a world champion. Ironically, even with those thoughts, he never did any boxing training. While he did bodybuilding, he never ventured into amateur or pro wrestling either.
"It was always in my mind," he said about pro wrestling. "The guys (stars on wrestling) were doing the same pose and giving the same speech (as boxing champions), but the opportunity never presented itself. At the time, Ken was doing this. Thank God Ken wasn't stripping at the time or I may have wound up doing that."
The documentary was supposed to be about his life's journey, which contained two memorable scenes, with Frank meeting real brother Perry, a homeless drug addict, for the first time in years, and climaxing with his sit down with Ken.
The meeting with Perry Juarez was a crazy fluke. Frank was in Redding, Calif., where he grew up, with the crew shooting his old house, and juvenile detention centers he had lived in. He had heard from family members that Perry may be living in town under a bridge.
"We had two hours left before I had to fly home, change clothes and shoot that night for the 'Gym Rescue' show with Randy (Couture)," Frank said. "I turned on my iPad. I saw a bridge near a VA Hospital. So we went there. He was sitting there with his dog. I don't think he thought it was real. I had to leave at first because I didn't have any money on me."
Shamrock said he went to get some cash to give to his brother.
"I couldn't believe what was going on. I gave him the money and then I had to leave. I don't think he was coherent most of the time. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. The situation, the moment, was overpowering. It was weird. I could tell he didn't know what was really going on. You don't see it in the film, he saw us and then he tried to get cleaned up, like a guest was coming and he didn't expect it."
The sit down was Ken was obviously planned out in the sense they would meet and talk on camera. He said he understood Ken setting the table on camera for a potential fight.
"I think he thought there was going to be a fight at the end," said Frank.
If there was a disappointment with the piece, it was that it was all built up to that conversation, but only a few minutes of a 90-minute talk aired. Frank said it was his fault much of the footage of them together wasn't usable.
"I had one sit down with Ken to pitch him on me and him fighting, years and years ago, but I haven't sat face-to-face with Ken since I was a young man," he said.
Frank said the direction of the documentary changed several times and the original plan was not to build it around a conversation with Ken. But once he and Spike TV talked about doing a documentary based on his book,. "Uncaged: The Life of a Champion MMA Fighter," the discussions led to involving Ken.
"I wondered if we could get Ken. He's such a big part of my life story because martial arts is a big part of the story. Once we started conversations, he was weirdly receptive," Frank Shamrock said.
With hindsight, he also said he wasn't ready at all for what happened, including Ken outright calling him a coward to his face.
"No I wasn't (ready). I was totally caught off guard and I was very emotional about it. The whole thing was very painful. I'd forgotten how erect Ken is, and it blew me away. I think I started crying in the first two seconds. I just came to apologize. I know some of the things I did were wrong, not because I meant to be wrong, but because I didn't make the right decision at the time," Frank Shamrock said.
Frank admitted, in particular, that he should have attended his adopted father Bob Shamrock's funeral in 2010. Bob, who adopted Frank after he got out of Folsom prison for robbing a Taco Bell, had spoken few words to Frank since 1997, a conversation that lasted perhaps 20 seconds after the Ortiz fight, and one visit Frank made after Bob had suffered a heart attack in 2009.
"I cried for like the entire first hour," he said. "It's not good. That's why we don't have more footage."
For now, Shamrock, 40, is retired, and his days largely are based around when his daughter, Nicolette, 5, gets home from school.
Fighting was something he had put in his past until making a deal with Spike TV to do the "Fightmaster" reality show, a program that got strong critical acclaim. But after a few weeks in, the ratings declined to dangerous levels for a prime time show, it was moved out of prime time, and there are no plans for a second season.
"I really loved it," he said. "The biggest reason was going back. I've been at home with Amy (his wife) and Nicolette for years and years. I got totally disconnected from the martial arts lifestyle and the interaction with people. I went there in daddy mode and was completely oblivious to these guys' journeys. Getting connected to them and being able to teach my style, it brought me back to being a young man and being able to teach and learn. I was most shocked at the lack of technical knowledge and business knowledge at the lower level of the industry, the amateur level, and the lower level of he pros. It's been so long. Teaching the guys on the Fightmaster show, some of these guys are like first-year students. They don't know the basics of MMA. There were such big holes."
The lifestyle change came when UFC purchased Strikeforce. Even though Shamrock was in the Strikeforce inner circle, the spokesperson and television announcer for the brand, he had no idea the deal was coming.
"I knew that the money was getting rocky and unstable," he said. "We needed new money or different money. Our backer wasn't in love with it anymore. The morning of (the sale being announced), I just woke up doing my thing and I was totally blind sided. It was probably the last thing I ever expected. We had such a tight-knit small team, very focused and really worked hard. It came out of left field," Shamrock said.
At that moment, he knew his life had changed. Due to his past issues with Dana White, he knew he wouldn't be long for the MMA business past him having a announcing contract with Showtime. But he knew full well going in how the Strikeforce story would play out.
"It totally changed my life," he said, noting in his book he developed a bad drinking problem during this period.
A reality show TV project based on his moving to New York and trying to get the sport legalized for Strikeforce died instantly.
"I'd been an entrepreneur, a very focused businessman, spokesman, and ran multiple companies based around Strikeforce," Shamrock said. "When it changed hands, my whole life stopped. I was the brand spokesman. I had to tell the story of what happened to Strikeforce, and I didn't know."