The inaugural run of Spike TV's Fight Master came to a close on Thursday night, with Team Jackson and Team Couture squaring off in two grueling semifinal fights. Although our guest, Frank Shamrock, was nowhere to be seen, there was no shortage of action as season favorite Joe Riggs and perennial underdog Mike Bronzoulis powered their way into the finals, where they will now compete for $100,000 and a spot in the next Bellator welterweight tournament.
A former Strikeforce, WEC, and UFC champion, coach Shamrock has joined us each week for the past three months to elaborate on the latest Fight Master episode, answer your questions, share stories from the set and highlight some things we may have missed. It's been a fun ride, and both Frank and I thank all of you for your participation. So with that said, for the final time, let's hear from the coach.
Al-Shatti: You and Joe Warren were M.I.A. throughout 99-percent of the season finale. So I'm curious, what were you guys up to?
Shamrock: Pretty much just causing trouble and hanging out. (Laughs.) You know, talking to the guys and needling them a little bit.
We had nothing to do. All the pressure was off of us so, you know, we resorted to doing what grown men do when they have too much time on their hands. And that's play hijinks on one another and then laugh at the result.
Al-Shatti: Hijinks, huh? What kind of hijinks are we talking about here?
Shamrock: Hmm... one I got kind of involved in was poor Joe Riggs' mouthpiece. He kept losing his mouthpiece. It was like a reoccurring problem. And because we were just hanging around, they kept asking us questions. So, I might have told Joe and a few other people that someone else may have done something with his mouthpiece. I'm not sure if I was really helping. (Laughs.)
We had a boy band at one point. I didn't get to see them perform, but I know at one point that had a full-on male band going. They had a couple songs, pretty solid. At one point, like five or six of them showed up with these shirts on and they were like, ‘You guys ready to sing or what?' I had high hopes for them, because I thought maybe they could turn this into the old football players back in the day who'd sing a song and they'd be really popular. But yeah, I guess they weren't good.
But the funniest one was we had a Greg Jackson head, and he just kept popping up in inappropriate places. Then I figured out how to make a Greg head fit in my sweatshirt, so I could actually look like Greg if presented properly. (Laughs.)
Al-Shatti: Okay, you're going to need to explain this Greg Jackson head to me.
Shamrock: When we were still in the competition, we were teasing Greg's guys about him not being there. We were kind of playing it up, because Joe (Warren) and I were there quite a bit. Like, ‘Wouldn't it be nice if you guys had a coach?' So I asked one of the production people to actually make me a life-size head cut-out of Greg. I put it on a stick, and then I would just talk them up for moral support. Give Greg's team a positive comment from him since he wasn't there. I mean, it looked like his head. So yeah, I was making sure he was there a lot.
We tried to tease Randy but he's so gruff, it just bounces right off. So we didn't get a lot in on Randy but I made him laugh a few times.
Al-Shatti: Man, we didn't see any of this during the season. Now I'm interested. Anything else we missed that comes to mind?
Shamrock: Well, Joe (Riggs) lost a lot of embarrassing bets in pool. We had a pool table there, but he kept losing. He's not good at pool. He should've just given up. But he kept ramping the bets up until finally the bet was to glue a beard made out of somebody's pubs on your face. And yeah, he lost. So... yeah. (Laughs.)
Al-Shatti: (Long silence.) Wait... seriously?
Shamrock: I can't remember who provided the beard. (Laughs.) But the whole thing, once I heard about it, it was like, ‘Alrighty then,' and I just did a 180 out the door. That's some next level stuff for me.
Al-Shatti: (Laughs.) Alright, I think pubic beards are a good place to change subjects. So Cole Williams finally stole Joe Riggs' No. 1 spot, but then he called out Joe anyway and lost. Looking back on the season, a lot of the guys who picked their opponent ended up losing. In that environment, did it somehow became a disadvantage?
Shamrock: Yeah. I think it added another layer to a challenge, because we all see different things in different people, especially the fighters. We never really want to accept that somebody could beat us. And a lot of times, you'll be writing checks with your mouth that your ass can't cash. So for a lot of guys, it's a double-edged sword. And the more I see of Riggs' game -- you know, I beat him up during the show itself -- I think he's been the smartest player, because he used his resources and he did exactly what was necessary. The hurdles he had, he overcame. As much as I want to put him lower in the rankings, he's the smarter guy.
Al-Shatti: He's been doing it throughout the season, but during the Riggs-Williams fight in particular, Greg Jackson really seemed to be pushing his agenda on the judges. Considering that the final result was a split decision, do you think Greg's brashness influenced the outcome?
Shamrock: I definitely think it had value on the judges. His cageside manner, I think it's interesting and actually kind of cool. And it works. Even when we were competing in and around him, you hear him yell and go, ‘Huh, I wonder if that's really going on?' Turns out what he's saying is only about 50-percent true, but it seems to be influencing people. I think it's brilliant, totally insane, and totally cool.
Al-Shatti: Finally, for the last fight of the season, Mike Bronzoulis TKO'd Eric Bradley in the second round. Greg Jackson was freaking out about supposed illegal elbows in the finishing sequence? To me it looked like a close call. What did you think?
Shamrock: I think it was a legal blow. It was right on the edge. But you know, I was real close to the fight and watching it, and Bradley got tired. I think that was the bigger story to the fight, because I don't think it was going to go much further regardless of the elbow.
Al-Shatti: Man, all throughout the season, people just kept overlooking Mike.
Shamrock: He used that as an advantage! People underestimated him. When you look at his package, he's not that skilled. But he's got basic stuff. He's there, he's tough as nails and he's strong as an ox. So he fills in whatever gaps with strength and intentions. But yeah, even I totally underestimated him. I watched his fight and I was like, ‘Wow, he has a lot of holes.' But he filled them in with toughness.
Al-Shatti: So now that this is all over, what did you think of the experience and would you do it again if given the chance?
Shamrock: I would definitely do it again. I'm happy I did it. After I left, I was all stressed and tired and I really didn't appreciate the experience. Except for, I had a deeper appreciation for martial arts when I left. I had gotten kind of far away from it, but when I got done I was like, ‘Wow.' The essence of martial arts was in that show and I hope it came across on camera, but it certainly came across in the community with the guys and during the production of it. It just totally reinvigorated my interest in martial arts.
We're all friends now. Randy (Couture) and I just did a show together, and then Joe (Warren) is fighting September 7th. Greg Jackson is training him and I am helping him with business. (Laughs.) So we're all helping each other out.
Al-Shatti: Just because I have to ask, who do you favor in the final: Joe Riggs or Mike Bronzoulis?
Shamrock: Well, I kind of still favor Joe when it comes to experience, and just getting it done. I still think he's got a couple more years left in him at a high level. But we'll see.
Jamesglory asks: Which of your fighters do you foresee going furthest in their MMA careers?
Shamrock: Well, Chris Lozano, I think, will have a brilliant career. All he's got to do is keep training and training hard. I think Nick (Barnes), the sky's the limit if he keeps focus and keeps training. I mean, these guys, over the weeks I got to know them really well, they're just good, tough guys. That journey was pretty positive. It energized my spirit to help them.
jfebs101 asks: Do you think its a loss for Bellator if Riggs wins this tourney?
Shamrock: Oh I don't think it's a loss for them. Not at all. It was a competition. Nobody knew or had any idea what was going to happen or who was going to win. It only took a minute to realize anybody can really win this thing, and it's going to take somebody very unique to get through the whole process. I think it's awesome that Joe has a chance to do it. He's probably had one of the most jacked up, up and down careers of any fighter I've ever met. And the minute he gets a chance to control his own destiny, he does something really, really awesome with it. I think if he wins, it'll be a great story.
Jamesglory asks: Is there anything you realize you approached incorrectly and wish you had done different? Do you feel guilty for not getting your boys further?
Shamrock: I wouldn't have as much equipment. What I've learned is for their skillset and this level, all of that is really extra. It's really about keeping it very simple, building up their spirits and foundation, so even when that process is over, they can continue. But that's about it. I would've had less equipment. ... Oh, and more water! It was hot! We sweated like crazy. I just couldn't get enough water and my boys were the same. I had them carrying jugs of water every day.
And that's a wrap. Thanks again for joining us all season, folks. Hope you enjoyed it. Portions of this interview have been abridged for concision.