Bellator's Fight Master introduced viewers last week to the anti-TUF format that Viacom executives were so excited about when they hitched their wagon back onto the reality TV side of mixed martial arts. As all four coaches jockeyed for the right to guide five different welterweights through a ‘choose your own destiny' style tournament, it didn't take long for the sparks to begin to fly.
Wednesday's second episode brought in a new crop of six fighters, one of whom, Southern boy Mike "Zombie" Dubois, aligned with our guest, Frank Shamrock. 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 talk to the coach.
Al-Shatti: So before we get to this week, what were your thoughts on last week's debut. Reality TV is tricky; regardless of how you act, everything's really up to the editors. How'd you feel about your portrayal?
Shamrock: I thought I was portrayed, well, like me -- which is unique and different, interesting. That part I liked. I thought the presentation of fighting was really good. The package of the story was very good and very compelling.
But you know, I'm like an entertainer. I look back at myself and go, ‘Ah, I look terrible. I shouldn't have said this or I shouldn't have done that.' I did the same thing with fighting. I looked at my own fights: everyone's excited and I was all disappointed that my techniques didn't work. So I'm just happy that people are liking it and the storyline represents mixed martial arts well.
Al-Shatti: So this week, right off the bat Mike Dubois chokes out Rob Mills and you declare that you're going to fight hard for him. Other than the fantastic nickname, what about Dubois caught your eye?
Shamrock: That he just really knew nothing. (Laughs.) He was sort of that wildcard guy that I could tell, he didn't really have any skills but he had the ultimate desire going for him. I figured in these types of crazy tournaments, anybody can get to the top if they have the right camp and the right opportunities. He seemd super dedicated and focused, and that's all I really need.
Al-Shatti: That declaration seemed to spark up a little fire between you and Greg Jackson.
Shamrock: Well I knew I already had Greg going. Greg was secretly promoting me, you know? So I knew I kind of had Greg on the line, which was the second part of the game. But I also could tell Mike had sort of made up his mind on what he was looking for. He was looking for, I think, somebody that was a huge inspiration, as well as technical stuff. So I felt like I had an edge on him, and if I sort of got Greg confused, I could get Mike focused towards me. That was pretty much my strategy. (Laughs.) I had crazy strategies, I don't know how they worked.
Like I said last week, [the fighters are] so vulnerable up there. They're so open to suggestion and just poured their heart out physically, and you can kind of sway ‘em. I think every little word and inclination and tone gets set in there somewhere and helps make up their mind.
Al-Shatti: Well, this one wasn't subtle. You flat out told Dubois, ‘I have ten times the experience Greg does. I've won all the world titles.'
Shamrock: Greg kept ratcheting it up, so I felt like I had to do the same. I was trying to pull Greg out. That was really my goal there, to pull him out so that Mike would go, ‘Hey, well obviously Frank's the superior choice.' I felt like if I got Greg going, Mike would just think, ‘Well, Frank seems to be winning the other battle,' and would just be inclined to come with me.
Al-Shatti: So we're six fighters into the game, and you have three guys on your team before anyone else even has two. All three of those guys were coveted by other coaches. What made you so compelling to these fighters?
Shamrock: I just think that I was different. Joe (Warren) is so forthright and honest, and ‘step right up and say it.' Greg is kind of mystical, his words got the phraseology thing going. And then Randy (Couture) is just so stoic and straightforward. I think as the alternative, I was just really fighting hard for certain guys and people were like, ‘Whoa. What is he doing over there?' It was unique and compelling, and when you're in a situation and you don't know what to do, a lot of times the unique, compelling and interesting thing is the thing to do, especially to the young guys who are like, ‘Where do I go? What do I do and where do I stand?'
I remember feeling like that, ‘Where do I stand?' and just starting from the basics. These young guys are just looking for their spot.
Al-Shatti: Be honest with me, you had to be feeling pretty good about yourself at that point, right?
Shamrock: I was pretty high there, I have to admit. (Laughs.) Because also, when I went in I had a pretty realistic approach. I was like, I haven't been fighting, I haven't been in this game, you know? These guys haven't been watching Walker, Texas Ranger. Half of them don't know who I am. So I knew this would be a huge gamble. But yeah, I really felt like I was winning. (Laughs.)
Al-Shatti: Next up is Eric Bradley. You don't make a hard push for him, but then you're worried to see him go to Jackson's. Why?
Shamrock: He just, I could tell he was a super athlete. So if he had a good plan, that would be a problem. He just needed focus. Anybody who's a super athlete -- I mean, Herschel Walker, it doesn't matter -- if you're a super athlete and you get the technique of fighting, you're super dangerous. So my goal was to put him on Joe's team and just really confuse him. Have him be wrestling like crazy. Or get him on Randy's team, have him just be a wrestler.
That's the only way to play the game. Try to put the wrong players on the wrong team, where they have weakness instead of strength. I think I got a few of those guys placed around, but yeah, Bradley, he got away from me.
Shamrock: I had sort of seen the talent coming through, and I could tell there were a couple of hard players coming up. Greg was getting stronger up there on the stand, so I just felt like we've got to fill up Greg as soon as possible. Then we can use Joe as sort of the [bait]. If a fighter's supposed to be with Randy, I can stick him with Joe, and then Greg's not a threat. I was trying to take Greg out of the equation as quick as possible.
Al-Shatti: The first time you did it, Greg seemed like he just laughed it off. The second time, not so much.
Shamrock: (Laughs.) At the beginning, everybody was trying to be nice. I had a whole strategy planned out about getting these guys to battle against each other and confuse each other, and hopefully I would slip through the cracks and win the whole thing.
Greg's credentials for training champions and doing things like this were just impeccable. And then he's so mystical because he doesn't say a lot. So he was drawing people in with his kind of stoicness and reputation, and then when he spoke it was important. He spoke with passion. But once he saw the pieces moving around, he really ratcheted it up. He had like three Red Bulls and was like, ‘I've got to get serious.' He really started bringing the heat and trying to confuse not only the other coaches, but also the contestants as well.
Shamrock: Souza was the more impressive fighter, skill wise and aggression wise, and I really liked him, but something was goofy. I could tell. I just didn't fight that hard for him. The same with Norwood. That's why I was goofing with him and stuff. I wanted to see how he'd respond to levity in a really intense situation, and he responded like I thought he would, which was with military thingamajigs. It just didn't vibe.
But Souza, he seemed very rolling and flexible and interested in things that he needed to learn, which is the biggest thing. I tried. I pushed a little bit and then I was like, well, I better back off, because it looked like if I was aggressive it would turn him off. So I kind of sat back a little bit and then I just lost him.
Jamesglory writes: Was time extremely limited to train and psychologically prepare fighters? Or are you satisfied with the ‘hands on time' you got with your fighters and team?
Shamrock: It was technically impossible to train them to the best of their ability. It was possible to create a unique training situation for them under the circumstances they had, which is what martial arts is all about. But yeah, to truly train somebody and to do it right, we needed months and months, and we didn't have it.
The eloquently named moist_turd writes: Being a fighter that has been around for so long and also has been retired for quite some time, how do your methods of training young fighters keep up with a sport that evolves rather quickly?
Shamrock: We just study current techniques. The techniques and the human body haven't changed for thousands of years, so not much has evolved. Unless we grow an extra limb, it's the same. Most of the martial arts techniques go in waves of popularity and usefulness, but they all work.
Jamesglory writes: What are the biggest pluses and negatives for the fighter's development, being trained under this show format?
Shamrock: I think the pluses are that you really can master your own destiny with this one opportunity, which is pretty crazy, if you can keep it together. I think that is the hardest thing and was the hardest thing for everybody. You're locked in this training center for 24 hours a day, forever. It's just so easy to lose sight of that end goal, lose focus during your training. So I think that was the hardest thing. You're just under such unreal mental burden, that the physical stuff is so much more challenging and the psychological stuff is so much more damaging and challenging.
Do you have a question for Frank Shamrock? Write it below in the comments 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.