You know the story already. You've probably heard it dozens of times.
The small, scrawny guy wearing a gi toppled the hulking, muscular favorite using a unique-at-the-time, ground-based attack. UFC 1 was your classic David vs. Goliath story.
Ken Shamrock, who lost to Royce Gracie in the semifinals of that inaugural event on Nov. 12, 1993, was Goliath. And ever since that day, all he has wanted was to alter the course of history slightly. Shamrock's tale is as old as that Biblical parable: it involves retribution and redemption.
Bellator will give Shamrock his shot 23 years after the fact in the main event of Bellator 149 Feb. 19 in Houston. It'll be Gracie vs. Shamrock all over again, a remake of the classic fight with both men maintaining their original roles.
"Everything I've wanted to set things right is right there," Shamrock told MMA Fighting. "All I've gotta do is just pick it up and go. That's what this is. That's the Gracie fight. I can [cherish] everything that this one fight happened. Everything. From the beginning to the end. It was started and it will end -- and I'm in control of that."
Sure, Shamrock got a rematch with Gracie at UFC 5 two years after the first bout. But that ended almost even more unacceptably. Shamrock was able to not get submitted in less than one minute like the first time, but all he was able to do was grind out a 36-minute draw. It still stands as the longest fight in UFC history.
So much has changed since in 20 years. Shamrock has retired multiple times, only to come back to face Kimbo Slice (a first-round KO loss) for Bellator back in June. Gracie, who had a comeback fight with the UFC in 2006, has not fought in eight years and was most recently filling a role as a brand ambassador for Bellator. Shamrock is 51 years old; Gracie is 48.
The announcement that the two would be meeting again at their advanced ages brought groans from some and eye rolls from others. UFC president Dana White said recently that two "50-year-olds" fighting each other was "crazy." Shamrock disagrees. He labels those expounding negativity about the fight "trolls."
"If I can't pass a physical or Royce can't pass a physical, then by all means -- I am all for it -- we can't fight," Shamrock said. "But if you're asking us to go out there and do anything another kid can do -- if someone passes the physical at that age, I think he's earned that right to go in there and fight and do anything he wants to do. It's just people who want to be angry, that just have nothing in life."
As much as Shamrock has accomplished in both mixed martial arts and pro wrestling -- he was a WWE star for years -- there is an empty place for him when it comes to certain opponents. Slice was one of those. So is Tito Ortiz. But Gracie? The biggest and it's not even close.
"There's a lot of fights out there that I wanted," Shamrock said. "I kept saying I wanted them, but for whatever reason I never got them. It is what it is. But the bottom line is I'm getting it now. It's fine with me. I'm not going to question it. I'm glad I got it."
Ever since Shamrock returned to the MMA scene as a Bellator brand ambassador, he has been asking for the Gracie rematch. He told Bellator president Scott Coker and, really, anyone who would listen. When Coker told Shamrock that Gracie officially accepted the offer, Shamrock felt like it was the great gift -- and opportunity -- he has ever been given.
"I could have jumped through the wall," Shamrock said. "It's like something you could touch and you know if you just get it, your world will be changed. Like everything would be OK if you just got the chance to turn things around. And you know with everything you are and with everything you breathe, all you've gotta do is wakeup and do it and things will change. But you can't get it to come to the table. You can't get them to talk with you. You can't seem to get things going. So therefore, it's lost. But then to turn around once when you wake up and you have it all sitting right there at the table -- it's all ready to go, it's there. All you've gotta do is just go.
"That's what it's like with this fight. It's like my whole life is sitting at the table and all I've gotta do is just go."