Let me paint you a little picture. A young Jon Shipman sits aside his friends circa 1997. As an awkward teenager uncomfortable in his own body, trying not to focus on spots, body odour, and involuntary erections, only 2 things could help him tear his mind away from such teenage angst. One was Baywatch, the other was the WWF, and to be more precise the Attitude era. Gone were the feather boas, clown costumes and telling kids to eat their vitamins. Now it was all about leather waistcoats, Diva’s, and Stone Cold Steve Austin telling everyone what ‘the bottom line was’, and it was all done with a pelvic thrust and middle finger up to authority.
Having a youthful obsession with martial arts, there was one man that stood out as someone different, one man that was not only crazy, but was technical, and would tie people up in all sorts of eye opening submission holds. That man’s name was Ken Wayne Shamrock. In his early days Jim Ross used to say Ken hailed from something called the UFC, and Jon thought nothing more of it until he saw Ken fight in a WWF style cage match. He was intrigued enough to do what most fans did in the 90’s, which was venture down to the back of the video store among videos like Faces of death, and Tetsuo the Iron Man, which is where he found UFC 3. He has never looked back since.
KEN SHAMROCK IS MY HERO
Ken Shamrock was single handily responsible for introducing me to the sport I love, and I have followed his torrid career ever since. He was unbeatable. In the Far East fighting in Pancrase and Pride he was a monster. He helped make the UFC what it is today and is the first man in the UFC to ever be multi skilled, the prototype for modern day MMA fighters.
He was literally my hero and could do no wrong. That was before a blond punk named Tito Ortiz, flipped off Shamrock after he had beaten Kens Stable-mate Guy Mezger. What followed was again a UFC first, a real promotional bad blood feud that the media and fans alike would lap up. This was a very important fight; this was a real changing of the guard, the first real MMA fighter vs the young modern day hybrid fighter.
The pre fight commotion was massive, Ken threatening to beat Tito into a living death is one of the greatest MMA quotes of all time, and just added to the hype train as it gathered speed. I’m going to be honest, I thought Ken would give Tito a whipping – I was well and truly wearing my fan-boy glasses, and the world of MMA was a tint of Shamrock green.
The fight was as one sided as it could get, Ken just couldn’t cut it anymore, the world’s most dangerous man had suddenly shot down the danger scale. He was barely as dangerous as my dad, and it broke my heart. This was such an important fight in the history of MMA. As well as a changing of the guard and the gulf it showed between old and new, it showed what fighters needed to do to survive. While Tito bought a ranch in Big Bear to train at altitude and hire in guys like then Heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez to train with, Ken stayed in Detroit training at his Lion’s Den academy. What he hoped to learn from guys that until then were his students, only he can tell us. What it did tell us is that Tito got it right, and fighters have trained using his blueprint ever since.
KEN SHAMROCK vs KIMBO SLICE
After the other 2 fights Ken had with Tito I was forced to watch his bouts from behind a cushion with gritted teeth. I even got tickets to see my hero when he came to London to lose to Robert Berry at Cage Rage 25. Robert Berry? Who is that I hear you ask.. exactly. Ken was a shadow of his former self, a fighter from the very beginning of his life who found it too hard to hang up his gloves.
He hasn’t fought now since 2010, yet he feels it’s the right time to step out of the shadows and back into the lime light when he takes on back yard brawler Kimbo Slice at Bellator 138. The MMA community let out one big sigh when this was announced. A 51 year old washed up fighter vs a 41 year old brawler who has dabbled in MMA and boxing, and I admit that I also shook my head and muttered why Ken, why? Then the more I thought about this, the more excited I got.
Ken and Kimbo were due to fight all the way back in 2008 at Elite XC, but Ken had to be replaced on fight night by Seth Petruzelli after he cut himself warming up. Giving us this match up now is a master stroke from Scot Coker, it’s a fight for the ages. Something that should have happened years ago has been reignited under Bellator – a true, striker vs grappler match-up to rival fights of old like Tank Abbott vs Oleg Taktarov or Minotauro Nogueira vs Mirko Cro Cop. I can honestly say aside from the Chandler vs Alvarez fights I am actually as excited to watch Bellator as I have been for any UFC fight. This fight intrigues me, and its also getting a lot of media attention, something Coker knew would happen. It’s one in the eye of the UFC no matter how much they pretend it’s a joke match up. It’s Shamrock and Kimbo charging the UFC cavalry with Bellator standards raised.
REMEMBER YOU’RE A GRAPPLER KEN
Ken Shamrock is not the fighter he used to be, but this time around he is making the right noises. It seems like he is doing this for no one other than himself, for the fun of it. He has nothing to prove anymore he just enjoys competing and can still do so headlining a fight card in the second largest MMA promotion in the United States.
My only hope for this fight is that Ken remembers he is a grappler and doesn’t try to tough it out on his feet against Kimbo. If he does I fear Kimbo will eat him alive. If not and Shamrock can take this to the ground and win by submission, well I think I might actually shed a tear. I may still be looking at this through my green tinted glasses, but for those who don’t agree, and those who would rather this fight not happen I think Rocky said it best.
“I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to someone, something… and you’re told no, even after you paid your dues? Who’s got the right to tell you that, who? Nobody. It’s your right to listen to your gut, it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be where you want to be and do what you want to do…. You know, the older I get the more things I gotta leave behind, that’s life. The only thing I’m asking you guys to leave on the table… is what’s right.”