Following a week-long hiatus, Bellator's ‘Fight Master' returned to the airwaves Wednesday night as the final four welterweight hopefuls hitched their wagons to one of four coaches. Our guest, Frank Shamrock, ultimately stood pat with his team of three fighters, although there were more than a few close calls.
A former Strikeforce, WEC, and UFC champion, Shamrock will join us every Thursday to elaborate on the week's episode, share stories from the set and highlight some things we may have missed.
If you have any questions you'd like Shamrock to answer next week, please write them in the comments below. Remember that rec'd comments will get first priority. And with that said, let's have some fun.
Al-Shatti: So we're back after a week off, and right away Ismael Gonzalez drops Marcus Aurelio with a highlight reel liver kick. I'm curious, what's the hardest shot to the liver you remember either delivering or receiving?
Shamrock: I'd have to say that Bas Rutten was the hardest. He probably kicked me at least five or six times in the liver during our fight. Afterwards you just feel tender in that area, like you've run into something really hard. And then if you get a really good liver shot, you'll have this weird blood in your urine. It's a weird coloration. I don't know what it is. But it's the initial [strike], it feels like you're paralyzed. All of a sudden you're good, then your whole body just kind of seizes up. That's what you saw happen when Ishmael landed that kick.
Al-Shatti: Afterward everyone is selling their case to Gonzalez, so Joe Warren comes right out and declares, ‘I am the best wrestler in the world.' That got a good chuckle out of you.
Shamrock: (Laughs.) Well, Joe is honest, so he was trying to tell Ishmael about his wrestling. It certainly came out kind of crazy, but that's Joe. He was very successful in just being honest. Fighters were really drawn to his passion.
Al-Shatti: Honesty? He wasn't just trying to hype himself up in these guys' eyes?
Shamrock: Oh no, I wrestled with him. The guy's one of the best wrestlers, if not one of the greatest Greco Roman wrestlers on the planet. He has knowledge of wrestling that I've never even seen, and I've wrestled for a long time. I mean guys like Randy Couture, guys who were awesome wrestlers on the show, they were standing in line watching while Joe was teaching techniques. He's just one of those very gifted wrestlers. And I think he knows it.
Al-Shatti: Well it worked. Gonzalez eventually picks Joe, and all of a sudden Joe is the first guy to fill up his team. I don't think anybody saw that coming.
Shamrock: Totally. People loved it. Fighters were like, this guy's really [great]. You know, Randy is all measured and kind of controlled, and I'm all crazy, and Greg [Jackson] is all secret silence mad killer. But Joe was speaking from his heart from the moment he got up there. It just really attracted people in that vulnerable moment after fighting. Guys were like, ‘[I pick] Joe,' and I was blown away. Like, really?
I actually really liked Joe once we started hanging out together, so I didn't mind, so much, losing to him. But I just thought, there's no way Ishmael is going to choose Joe's camp. That one, I'd have put money that I was going to get him to my camp, so it just blew me away.
Al-Shatti: Next we get to, Andy Uhrich who gets disqualified because of a cut above his eye. Then Bryan Travers walks up and outworks Artenas Young. Immediately Greg tries to pawn Travers off on you. Did you expect that?
Shamrock: I didn't. It totally threw me off. Because I was trying to be all passive aggressive and downshift a little bit. When Greg threw him over to me, I wasn't really prepared. (Laughs.) And I should have probably sold him hard when Greg pushed him back onto me, but I didn't and that's my loss.
Al-Shatti: Even despite pawning him off, Travers still picked Jackson's. You followed this strategy to a tee earlier in the season with Chris Lozano, but I don't know if I've ever seen Greg look so pleased with himself as he did at that moment.
Shamrock: (Laughs.) As the game went on, he really started inserting false information, and just took what I had and added wrinkles to it. Then he just became really nasty in the game, and that was definitely him flexing his muscles there. It's so calm when he does it. It's kind of creepy. It's like a quiet little storm inside him, and then it just peeks out every once in a while.
He's very smart about mind games. At first I doubt he was paying attention, to be honest, but as soon as the game got going you saw him ramping it up, and just getting better and better at it.
Al-Shatti: You've told me before that it's strange being around so many young fighters because you haven't for a long time. When Gareth Joseph dropped in the first, you implored Mike Bronzoulis, ‘Finish him!' What's it like watching these guys fight without being able to assist in any way?
Shamrock: It's very frustrating. It's very much like when your child is doing something off, you just want to stop him. I had that feeling, but there's absolutely nothing I could do but yell and scream. And I'm a fan, so a lot of being in that situation is, I'm going between being a fan watching fighting and, ‘Oh, that's right, I'm on a reality television show. I need to sit here and pay attention.'
It made me ultra [focused]. I don't know how many guys were taking notes, but I'm taking notes the whole time.
Al-Shatti: Taking notes? Ah, I figured you were playing Fruit Ninja on that iPad.
Shamrock: I work in television! (Laughs.) My memory is only 20 or 30 seconds long, as long as the script needs to be! You could have a 5-year-old, her memory is only 15 seconds long. I'm just not developed like I used to be. So I was like, well, I'll just write them all down because I have a tablet now.
'This guy did this, this guy needs this.' By the time the fights over, they've cleaned him up, brought him out and got some water, I had a whole, like, breakdown. What I thought of a guy, what he needed, and I was sort of making my decision off of those. But it's hard to pay attention because I'm yelling and screaming, there's cameras, guys fighting. It's a high stress situation and I'm just trying to stay focused.
Al-Shatti: So right away you send Bronzoulis off, saying Randy could round him out a little better. Bronzoulis proceeds to choose Randy's camp and repeat the exact same lines you just told him. Well played, sir.
Shamrock: (Laughs.) My mind games were getting out of control! Because, well, I thought I was going to get him. I was doing a little bit of confusing and trying to shift the pieces around, but I sincerely thought he was going to come with me. So I said something to trade him, get him thinking, and was supposed to follow up with something awesome that was supposed to capture him, but I didn't.
Al-Shatti: After that we're finally down to our last fight. Both you and Greg have an open spot on your teams. Last episode you mentioned that you were holding out for some of the talent still to come. Is Joe Riggs the guy you were talking about?
Shamrock: Oh yeah. I tried to fill up Greg's team and Randy's team so that I had a better chance of getting Joe. I knew Joe was in the mix. I'd heard his name floating around, so I tried to save a spot for him.
I've called his fights in the past. He usually gets distracted; he's looking around, looking in the crowd like he's looking for something. But when he got into that Bellator cage, he was just looking at his opponent. Dead eyes, focused, relaxed. I was like, ‘Wow. This is the guy who, sometimes, used to show up.' And then he was flawless.
Al-Shatti: Riggs eventually picked Jackson's. Was that your biggest disappointment during the selection process?
Shamrock: Yeah, Greg got me big on that one. And I just did not see that one coming either. I've known Joe for a long time, and not in a training sense, really from a professional standpoint. But I thought I had him. That was really a kick to the liver right there.
Al-Shatti: What did you mean when you told Greg, ‘Wait until we start messing with his head, he's going to melt?'
Shamrock: Well, everyone knows Joe's a head case. It's happened in the past. Usually he shows up one out of four times in a fight, then the other three times it's not pretty. Lackluster. This all comes because mentally he just hasn't had a consistent [coach] to keep his mind right. He talked about it on the show, he finally got somebody to help him with that. It seems to be working, but I figured we can unsettle him. Like anybody in that house, if we can get them frustrated, get them unfocused, get them unsettled, they're not going to be laser focused and trying to learn.
Al-Shatti: So that ends the selection process. Next week the real game starts. What should we expect? Is ‘Fight Master' going to remind viewers of the ‘TUF' format?
Shamrock: It's going to be completely different. Each camp has their own world and gets to do whatever they want. So we get to see the unique training styles, the unique recovery styles. You're going to see the strategies and psychologies going into place right away, as well as the guys who start hanging out, for better or worse, who create friendships and may have to battle later on.
Gentleway asks: How much is age playing into your decision with these guys? Which do you prefer to get your hands on especially given the format; an early to mid 20 something or an older and potentially experienced fighter?
Shamrock: I didn't really consider age in the selection. A lot of people were really young, but for me, I like having the younger guys and the middle guys, just because the older guys like me are so set in their ways and hard to change. But I didn't really use that in the picking criteria. I looked more at their body structure and their technical ability and the techniques they used.
Jamesglory asks: Are there any fighters who you see on OTHER coaching teams who you believe could progress from the ‘Fight Master' show to the big show? Can you name names? Or is that revealing too much?
Shamrock: I think the standout so far is Joe Riggs, when it comes to experience, being in the game. The other guys just don't have their legs underneath them yet or the record behind them. As long as Joe stays healthy, like every fighter, I don't think he'll have a problem. I think he can win the whole thing and he can definitely win the belt.
Gentleway asks: If you see improvement in the short run of the show with a fighter, do you or the other coaches believe you would continue training with any of these guys?
Shamrock: We saw tremendous improvement technically in almost every area with all of these guys that were on our team. So yeah, I would love to train them. For me, once you start teaching, I just want to continue to add and make them as good as they can be. My door is open for them but now we have to do it in the backyard because I'm retired, so we don't have a training facility. (Laughs.)
Do you have a question for Frank Shamrock? Post it in the comments below and we'll ask him next week. ‘Fight Master' airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. Portions of this interview have been abridged for concision.