SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- When Frank Shamrock sized up the new reality series "Fight Master: Bellator MMA," he sees a format which would have appealed to ... Frank Shamrock.
The first holder of what is now called the UFC light heavyweight title famously made his name by doing his own thing. From retiring while holding the championship to resurrecting his career with Strikeforce, Shamrock has always placed high value on calling his own shots.
"I became a free agent in 1999. I retired, that's how I got out of my contract," Shamrock said in an exclusive interview with MMAFighting.com on Tuesday. "From that moment on, I've always been in control of my own destiny. I've always picked the fight that I thought would, you know what, that guy's really tough, and it's really competitive, but it's going to be a great show for the fans."
"Fight Master" will allow fighters a degree of autonomy, giving higher-seeded fighters the opportunity to choose their coach and pick their fights. That's something Shamock, who is one of the four coaches along with Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, and Joe Warren, can sink his teeth into.
"They have the chance to create their own path," Shamrock said. "When does a fighter ever have a chance where they say ‘I want him?' And after that, ‘I want him?' When do you get the chance to pick that? There's more free agency in that. I dig that. As soon as they were telling me the fighters get to choose their fights I was like, 'I'm totally in.'
"Now, you can help them in so many different ways," Shamrock continued. "Psychologically, physically, spiritually, some of these guys, they have all the talent in the world, they just don't believe it, they don't know it. They're just one component away from achieving their dreams."
Shamrock also says the Bellator's tournament format was part of the appeal when the job was pitched to him.
"They have stuck to the purity of the sport," Shamrock said. "They're interested in the development and growth of the sport. And that's where I'm honored. This sport is very special to me. Mixed martial arts needs to be presented in that type of fashion. That's Bellator and that's, it isn't just any other show, we're real, we're really serious about this. I didn't want to do any old show. I'm so retired, its ridiculous. I don't want to leave my family for any period of time. But, you can tell they're serious about the sport."
Shamrock appeared to have hit a career dead end once Strikeforce, a company in which he played in integral role from the get-go, was purchased by Zuffa and ultimately disbanded. But the "Fight Master" coaching gig has made for a solid landing.
"I mean, I work in television, so every day is like the end of your career and then each day is a new one, " Shamrock said. "So I've been doing that for about five years, so, I don't know, I've always followed my heart and followed my passions, and my passions got me to this point. I mean as a human being I'm happy to be working, but, I look back on my career and I mean, you know, a lot of people worry about what didn't happen, but I'm just happy for what I've got. I'm happy they called me. Someone's wants me to help out the sport, and I'm happy someone included me."