Ken Shamrock is the first to admit that he misses the old days of mixed martial arts.
In fact when the UFC Hall of Famer first started fighting back in the 1990’s the term ‘mixed martial arts’ hadn’t even been coined yet. He was competing in ‘no holds barred’ competitions that saw boxers pitted against grapplers, judo specialists going up against wrestlers and karate experts taking on street fighters.
While the sport has obviously evolved dramatically from the standpoint of overall skills, there was a certain authenticity to those old school fights that Shamrock will never forget.
Rather than immerse himself back into a sport that he essentially helped create, Shamrock decided to blaze a new path ahead that also reminds him of those early days when he first began fighting.
“When I first started out in mixed martial arts and no holds barred, the thing that I understood was that I loved the purity of bare knuckle,” Shamrock explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Just the idea of being able to stand up and throw punches and know that you have to land on a sweet spot, it takes away the amateurs getting lucky.
“So for me, right from the beginning I fell in love with it. It’s just two guys in there, mano to mano, and it was just God given talent. We didn’t need gloves to make it better or take away the opportunities because you had to wear a glove. For me, I just loved it. I fell in love with it.”
The passion for the sport in those early incarnations is part of what inspired Shamrock to start his own bare-knuckle fighting promotion titled ‘Valor BK’ with their first event scheduled for this Saturday night in North Dakota.
As much as he competed in the regulated era of mixed martial arts, Shamrock refutes the idea that introducing a four-ounce glove really changed all that much outside of an illusion of safety.
“Just my opinion, I think as no holds barred started trying to get safer, they sold people these goods that putting a four-ounce glove on somebody and wrapping their hand and said ‘hey we’re going to make it safer’. It’s just not true,” Shamrock said. “I’m a fighter and I can tell you that’s not true.
“I always use this quote — if you were to ask Tank Abbott why he put gloves on, he ain’t going to say it’s to protect the fighter. He’s going to say ‘because I wanted to knock the piss out of the guy and not hurt my hand’.”
Meanwhile, bare-knuckle boxing has seen a massive resurgence in recent years with several high-profile shows taking place across the United States. Back in June one of the most talked about events of the year was a bare-knuckle boxing match between former UFC fighter Artem Lobov and retired boxer Paulie Malignaggi.
Shamrock is now dipping his big toe into the bare-knuckle boxing industry with his own promotion in hopes of not only making a successful business venture but also educating the fight loving public that this sport may look brutal but it’s actually much safer than you might realize.
“Bare knuckle is a lot like no holds barred when it first started out,” Shamrock explained. “There’s a lot of darkness to it but that’s why we’re here. We’re here to bring knowledge to people that what they were sold in the beginning was not true. What they were sold was not true. What we will show now, we will show people that this is an exciting time to watch a combat sport, have fun with it, own it and be proud of it. This is not more dangerous than putting a glove on somebody.
“When you go in and see some blood or you see a broken nose or a broken jaw, I am telling you from a fighter’s standpoint, I would rather have that than being punched 100 times each round and then 10 years down the road, I forget my children and grandchildren’s names. When you’re watching it in the instant, it looks bloody, it looks exciting, it’s fun, it’s combat but at the same time when you put a glove on somebody and they punch that many times per round and not hurt their hand, then you have brain trauma and that’s going to bite you 10 or 15 years down the road.”
If reliving the old school days of no holds barred was one half of the reason Shamrock started Valor BK, the other half came down to ownership.
Throughout his career in combat sports, Shamrock has always been a marketable fighter and as a pioneer of mixed martial arts he always attracted a big audience to see him perform. He engaged in several memorable rivalries and made his promoters a lot of money over the years.
More recently, Shamrock says he’s received a multitude of offers asking him to make appearances or do commentary work for different promotions but after years of working for somebody else, it was finally time to work for himself.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to jump into different businesses in MMA, announcing and all these other things but I felt like if I was going to get back into this other than being a fighter, I wanted to go back and do it as an owner,” Shamrock said. “I built so many companies with my character and the way that I would build my fights up so that fans would want to watch, I knew how to do that.
“So I felt like in order to do that, I needed to be in some type of control so I could have the opportunity to build my own organization and do it from the standpoint using the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years.”
With Valor BK, Shamrock is putting the weight of the world on his own shoulders to ensure this organization finds success because the buck stops with him and no one else.
“If you look at my career from the time I started with Pancrase and the UFC and then pro wrestling, you name it, whenever I’ve gone to a company, I’ve been able to rise above and help build that company into the largest out there,” Shamrock said. “All I had to do was me knowing how to build my fight. Knowing how to promote my fight. Knowing how to create a storyline and I did that all the way from the first time that I fought all the way to the last time. So I know how it works.
“For me, I had a lot of other opportunities but I didn’t take them because I realized if I was going to be on the other side of that fighting surface, I needed to be in control. I understand how it works so it was important for me to be able to pass my knowledge along and being able to put together something that people will want to watch.”