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Ken Shamrock: Royce Gracie is only fighting me because I looked 'bad' against Kimbo Slice

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Ken Shamrock has wanted a third fight with Royce Gracie for going on two decades now. Gracie won the first at UFC 1 in 1993 and the second was a 30-minute draw at UFC 5 in 1995.

Shamrock has always wanted revenge. Gracie has been ambivalent.

Now, though, the fight is on. Gracie vs. Shamrock will happen in the main event of Bellator 149 on Feb. 19 in Houston. Shamrock believes he knows why: because Gracie thinks Shamrock is ripe for the plucking after a loss in June to Kimbo Slice.

"I believe this with all my heart," Shamrock said at a recent media day. "Not that it takes away the pain or the sting or anything, but if I beat Kimbo, me and Royce aren't fighting. Depending on how I look. But because I looked so bad going into that fight, all of a sudden Royce wants to fight. He didn't want it before this, but now he wants it."

Gracie, who has not fought in nine years, scoffed at that notion when asked about it an hour later during his own media scrum.

"He shouldn't even earn the title to fight me," the MMA legend and pioneer said. "It should be Kimbo. He lost. I never saw a guy that lost try to climb back again over everybody. I will not fight Kimbo. He's a friend of mine. But [Shamrock] lost. He should pack his bag and go home. He came back and kept bugging."

There is respect between the two. Shamrock will readily say how good Gracie was in the 1990s and how he was "much better" than him, especially at grappling. Shamrock resents the fact, though, that Gracie never gives him credit. Shamrock believes he got the better of the draw at UFC 5, but Gracie has always said that Shamrock just laid on him.

Gracie, meanwhile, doesn't appreciate the words that Shamrock actually does say.

"I don't like Ken, because of the way he acts," Gracie said. "He could be a cool guy. It's nothing to do with his technique. It's just the way he acts. Acts like he's the tough one, he's the sh*t. He ain't sh*t. Be a little more humble. Be humble, man. He's one of those guys that's not humble."

Shamrock, 51, and Gracie, 49, have never been friends. But the most they speak with reports, the more they don't appreciate what the other man has to say. There remains a lot of pride on both sides despite the advanced age. Bragging rights will still be on the line when the two meet in a couple of months. Even more than 20 years later, this is still a grudge match.

And yet, Shamrock is adamant that it never would have happened if he had come out and looked great against Slice at Bellator 138 in June. Slice knocked him out in the first round, though Shamrock had him in trouble with a rear-naked choke in the openings seconds.

If Shamrock had won, he believes this fight -- the one he has wanted for two decades -- would have never come together.

"I'm not sure if he would have stayed retired," Shamrock said, "but he wouldn't have fought me.