At 44-years old, UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock (26-12-2) is still trying “to see the world” by fighting he confided from an airport terminal awaiting his flight to London.
Shamrock is no longer “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”, as he’s billed in his CageRage debut versus “Buzz” Robert Berry (12-7) Saturday.
But, there was a time he damn well may have been.
“[In 1993] a student of mine brought me a flier [calling for fighters for UFC 1],” Shamrock remembers.
At the time, Shamrock was wrestling in Japan’s Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, mentored by wrestling legends Masakatsu Funaki, Karl Gotch, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.
Wrestling in Japan had avoided most of the kitsch of American pro wrestling. His mentors taught Shamrock shoot wrestling, very real and effective submission techniques.
In 1993, Funaki founded a hybrid wrestling promotion called Pancrase.
“It wasn’t MMA,” Shamrock emphasizes. “We used open-hand strikes and shin guards when kicking.”
In Pancrase’s first event in September 1993, Shamrock submitted Funaki in six minutes. It was a testament to how far the former Tough Man competitor had come.
“What we did at UFC 1 was what you see today,” Shamrock traces MMA’s lineage. “That was the beginning.
“Every time I had seen a no holds barred tournament, it was just for entertainment, you know? In wrestling, it meant you could bring chairs in the ring. It was ridiculous. So, I was skeptical,” Shamrock explains. “But, reality fighting, that’s what attracted me to the tournament.”
“We didn’t know until three days before that it was definitely happening.”
In the first round of UFC 1, the wrestler easily submitted kickboxer Patrick Smith (14-13) in a heel hook at 1:49.
After the fight, Shamrock was asked to compare UFC 1 to what he had been doing every month in Pancrase.
“This is easier,” he proclaimed brashly. “This guy doesn’t know submissions.”
His confidence may have been his downfall in his second fight of the tournament.
“I didn’t know who Royce Gracie was,” Shamrock admits. “When I saw him in his gi, I thought he was some karate guy.”
The eventual tournament winner, Gracie (14-3-3), submitted Shamrock in a rear naked choke in 57 seconds.
“It was setup for him to win,” Shamrock complains. “I wasn’t allowed to wear my wrestling shoes, but he was allowed to wear his gi.
“You can watch it and see that I slip going for a leg lock and [Royce Gracie] wraps his gi around my neck for the choke.”
At UFC 5 in 1995, he’d get his revenge versus Gracie in a “Superfight”, this time knowing fully what to expect from the BJJ and MMA legend. After 36:06, the fight was declared a draw.
The world’s most dangerous man? Gracie had no answer for the wrestler after twice as long as any other MMA fight Gracie had previously participated in.
If Shamrock wasn’t the most dangerous man in the world, at that point he was at least as dangerous as Gracie, considered then to be the top reality fighter in the world.
Saturday, Shamrock makes his British debut. A victory over Berry leads Shamrock to another accomplishment: MMA’s first American network television main event on CBS versus Kimbo Slice.