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Frank Shamrock prepares for Renzo Gracie

Back in 1993 when mixed martial arts first burst onto the scene, it was a Shamrock and a Gracie leading the charge into the public's eye. Now, more than a decade later, it will again be a Shamrock and a Gracie leading MMA to new frontiers ? this time as it breaks through onto premium cable.

When Frank Shamrock and Renzo Gracie do battle on Feb. 10 in the main event of EliteXC's inaugural fight card at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss., it will also mark the first time Showtime will be televising a MMA event. For Shamrock, it's a dream come true.

"I'm really excited for two reasons," Shamrock told "One, fighting on Showtime has always been a dream of mine and I think it is going to be huge. Two, fighting against Renzo is something I've always wanted to do, so I'm just tickled pink over here."

Shamrock is now more than seven years removed from his days as the Ultimate Fighting Championship's middleweight champion. He walked away from the Las Vegas based organization after stopping Tito Ortiz in September of '99. Since then, there were Frank sightings in 2000 and 2003, and again last March as he stopped Renzo's cousin, Cesar, in a Strikeforce competition.

Still, fight fans were clamoring for a regular dose of the 34-year-old. Now, after signing a multi-fight agreement with EliteXC, Shamrock says that he is back and looks forward to becoming champion again.

"I've been waiting for this sport to get bigger and I've been waiting for the right opportunity to come along," Shamrock said. "I've always trained, I've always been a professional martial artist, and now I have the opportunity to get paid a bunch of money and I get to do it on Showtime."

And fighting a Gracie, defending his family name in a classic match-up, made getting back into the cage that much sweeter.

"This is where it all started," Shamrock said. "We were the first two names in mixed martial arts. It represents the best of American mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I've always wanted to fight the Gracies, but no one has ever stepped up until now."

It's a match that fight fans are anxious to see, points out EliteXC president Gary Shaw, simply for how big the two families are in the MMA world.

"For me, having been on the stage with them at the press conference, I got the chills," said Shaw, who made his name as one of the top boxing promoters. "It was like Lewis-Tyson. I just thought, God, I'm here with a Shamrock and a Gracie, what a way to start my career."

At this point in his career, with all the awards he's received, belts he's won and records he's set, Shamrock is looking to fight the best competition available. The youngest Shamrock views fighting Renzo as that kind of high-level challenge.

Shamrock has always been challenge driven. It's what has kept him in top condition despite the fact that he has been fighting sporadically after climbing to the top of the MMA world by his mid-20's.

Now, after all he has accomplished, he hopes to again climb to the top of the mountain.

"I've always looked for things to challenge me," Shamrock said. "I figure by the end of the year I will be back to were I want to be and that is at the top of the game. My goals were to win championships and set records and I've done all that. Now I'm just looking to show as many people as possible that I am a good mixed martial artist."

Gracie, who has himself only recently come back onto the professional scene, has been on a hot streak. Fighting in the International Fight League, he has won two super fights, submitting Pat Miletich and taking a split decision against Carlos Newton. Gracie is also the head coach of the Pitbulls, which is based out of New York City.

In Gracie, Shamrock feels he has found a competitor who can push him to his deepest thresholds.

"He's still a gamer," Shamrock said. "I think he is the toughest of all the Gracies. I've watched his game and I have studied it pretty thoroughly. He's got a good ground game, understands standup. I'm looking for someone to challenge me; I'm looking for someone who can beat me, and he's the guy."

Like Gracie, Shamrock is a head coach for one of the 12 IFL teams, the Razorclaws (San Jose). Coaching this team has brought great joy to Shamrock.

After losing 3-2 to his brother Ken's team, the Lions, Frank held open tryouts in an attempt to bring some depth to his team. He had approximately 50 applicants, of which 12 were invited to try out. He was very pleased with what he saw.

"I was very impressed with the level of knowledge that was out there," Shamrock said. "I was also impressed with the level of commitment that these guys showed."

Now he's hoping to get another shot at his older brother.

"I hated losing to Ken, but it is what it is ? you win some, you lose some," admitted Frank. "The boys fought their hearts out and they're living the dream ? but I sure would've loved to win that one."

Who knows, perhaps one day in the future we will see the Shamrock brothers compete against one another inside the ring or a cage rather than as coaches. But for now, the task at hand for Frank is defending the Shamrock name against the Gracies. It's a mission he is glad to accept.

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