Ken Shamrock Talks About The Ugly Side of The UFC on Boxing Insider Radio
Boxing Insider Radio is back with a bit of a twist this week. Some of the biggest names associated with the sport of boxing have joined the crew to discuss everything boxing related, but this week, they were joined by MMA legend Ken Shamrock as he discussed his new book “The World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
In the mid 2000s, owner of Boxing Insider Larry Goldberg, ran Kenshamrock.com and assisted with event bookings during his time in the UFC. The two share a great relationship till this day which was apparent as Shamrock opened up in great detail about the ugly side of MMA. To tune into the conversation, subscribe to Boxing Insider Radio on iTunes, Spotify or simply head over to Boxinginsider.com.
The pristine image on the outside always draws attention. The hulking muscles, perpetual confidence and the long line of women that are always in their vicinity attribute to it all. Who can forget the fast cars and piles of cash as well?
The life of an athlete is anything but mundane. NBA players receive praise for putting a ball through a hoop, while NFL players are lauded for running the ball through the end zone. Both sports, along with others that weren’t previously mentioned continually find themselves in the spotlight.
But there’s something about leaving a man face down, barely breathing that makes them the coolest person in the room.
For MMA legend Ken Shamrock, the spotlight was never too bright for him. After all, he had been fighting professionally over 25 years. But while the money, cars and power were fun, there was an entirely different side of the MMA world. One that Shamrock is pulling the curtains on and revealing just how dirty, corrupt and loathsome the MMA world really is.
“We get to talk about the things that the fighters have grown through,” said Shamrock on Boxing Insider Radio referring to his book. “The things that I’ve gone through and the families have gone through. We get a chance to dive in and get things right.”
Nicknames tell you a lot about a person. Chances are, if you have a friend that’s often referred to as “Killa” or “Bones” then he isn’t the person you want to play around with. Other nicknames such as “Smiley” gives you the impression that he or she is approachable.
When you’ve been given the alias, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” then it means one thing and one thing only, don’t get into a fist fight with that person.
Ken Shamrock earned that nickname by putting his opponents to sleep in short fashion. Facing Shamrock was normally going to end in only one of two ways. Either you were going to be on your back staring at the lights or on your stomach tapping out.
Shamrock flew out of the gate in 1993 to start his career, winning 16 of his first 19 matchups. He’d continue his streak for much of the 90s as he won 23 of his 31 fights. But when the ball dropped on the new millennium so did his career as the losses and injuries began to pile up.
Even with Shamrock seeing a slip in his performance, his box office appeal remained high.
Time for a bit of a backdrop. In 2020, the UFC is one of the most recognizable organizations in the world. It’s brand is worth billions of dollars and the fighters associated with the organization routinely receive millions of dollars for their work.
In the early 2000s however, this simply was not the case.
The UFC was a failing product. Audiences were not interested in the brutality of the sport. Nor were they fascinated with any characters that were associated with them. But Shamrock was an entirely different story.
In short, before there was a Conor McGregor, there was Ken Shamrock.
To put the UFC on the map, Shamrock needed to take on the promotions other big star in Tito Ortiz.
“In the early 2000s, I was starting to have knee issues and I was supposed to have surgery. But Dana came up to me and said that this can’t wait and we really need this to happen. So I went in that fight with Ortiz with knee problems. I knew that I was going to be facing an uphill battle but I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want my mind to accept that I wasn’t capable of winning. So I went in there with the full intentions of winning. Obviously you look back at it and have a better understanding of what you could’ve and should’ve done.”
“But at the time I just felt like this was an organization that I helped create along with a lot of other guys and it was my legacy. I just didn’t want to see it fold up and go away. That’s what I felt that Dana White was saying to me. That they aren’t doing very much buys and they are struggling and they need someone to do this. So I told him that I can get the numbers up, I’ve done it everywhere that I’ve gone.”
“I’ve always been able to build the hype and bring the numbers in. I told him that I can build it to over 100 thousand buys. Dana was hesitant because they haven’t gotten that. I just kept telling him that I could do it. When the fight with Ortiz came and went, it did exactly what I said. We did close to over 150,000 buys.”
The UFC officially had it’s “here I am” moment. But what should have been a happy moment for not only the UFC but for the pockets of Ken Shamrock, took a bad turn.
“Shortly after the pay per view, I was told that we only did 99,000 buys.”
The sudden shortage in the pay per view numbers was a coincidence that Shamrock simply wasn’t going for.
Before Shamrock signed on the dotted line to face Ortiz, the UFC was contractually obligated to pay him more then his base pay for every buy over 100,000. Needless to say, the ironic number of 99,000 left Shamrock looking at the UFC with a side eye.
“I didn’t get that. Unfortunately that’s where me and Dana White’s issues came in. Before that we got along fine. But that kind of started it.”
Shamrock’s surly attitude was warranted in the end as the UFC was found to be mendacious in their handling of the event.
“I had found out that I wasn’t told the truth about the numbers at the time. They said we did 99,000 but of course we all know now that we did close to 150,000. Unfortunately, I never got paid for that.”
With a now sheepish look on their faces, the UFC attempted to move forward with Shamrock. The following deal he signed with the organization left him both well compensated and placated the issues they once had.
“Soon after the mishap they wanted to sign me to a multi fight deal. Once I signed that, it negated the original contract that we had for the amount over the 100,000 buys. So they were good about hiding that by signing me to a multi fight deal after the Tito fight.”
But much like his untenable relationship with Dana White and the UFC, Shamrock found himself on the wrong end of a bad deal once again.
During the first contest of his multi fight deal with the UFC, Shamrock made it look easy against Kimo Leopoldo, stopping him in the very first round. Next up on the docket was Rich Franklin. But before Shamrock could pound his fists into his opponents skull, the UFC grew tired of his creaky bones and attempted to force him into retirement.
Most organizations throw their employees a retirement party and make them feel appreciated. Buffet style entrees along with a large cake is usually the procedure. During it all, you are swarmed by colleagues while you are standing in front of a banner as you are lauded for all of the handwork you have done for the company. Hugs and fake tears usually follow.
For the UFC however, they simply handed Shamrock a watch, opened the back door and attempted to throw him out as though he was a piece of rotting trash. Sure, Shamrock was already at an advanced age well into his 40s but the way in which he was treated felt facetious in nature.
“For me I was just at a point where I was just starting to put my body back together. And I wanted to do a real good run at doing something in the MMA world. But it felt like the UFC was done with me. Even though I was putting up the biggest numbers that anyone else was doing. I was still a huge draw but for whatever reason they just did not want me to continue fighting.”
“And it was almost like they were trying to not let me do it anywhere else either. They were afraid that if I went somewhere else that I would also do those numbers again, so they were trying to retire me so that I wouldn’t go anywhere else. But I just wasn’t done yet man. I know a lot of people say that you are long in the tooth and you aren’t as good as you were before but I truly believed that I earned the right to fight for fun.”
“I fought competitively, I fought for organizations, I helped build them up and I was a spokesman. So I did everything to make other people money and now I had a chance to go out there and fight because I enjoyed it. There was no other reason than just challenging myself. Even though I was 40 something years old and into my 50s I enjoyed fighting. I enjoyed competing. So to have that taken away from me in my opinion was wrong. I wasn’t ready to stop but it felt like they were forcing me out.”
“Why is it so important for fans to force people out? Is it because they are afraid they are going to get hurt? Or they are afraid that they won’t look the same? But yet, the person that is fighting understands their heart, love and desire is to be in that ring and fight until they can’t anymore. If that is their desire, haven’t they earned that?”
Shamrock has earned everything throughout his career. But behind the championship trophies, bulky muscles and piles of cash lied a deleterious relationship with the UFC. Even with the lies, drugs and sex parties Shamrock is blessed to not only feel apart of the UFC legacy, but that he left his own mark in the MMA world.
“I was blessed and very fortunate to have the career that I did and to keep fighting for as long as I did. Even though I wasn’t at the best of my abilities I was still a main part of building multiple organizations even beyond the UFC. So for me it was just truly amazing.”