Respect the Pioneers: Ken Shamrock
by, 01-27-2010 at 08:03 PM (5353 Views)
Mixed Martial Arts is a relatively young sport, yet a select few fighters have become synonymous with the sport and it’s evolution. They are pioneers of MMA because they helped shape the sport’s growth in a multitude of ways. Ken began fighting in Pancrase and the UFC in 1993, when there were still elementary questions regarding which disciplines and techniques were effective in No Holds Barred competitions that had yet to be answered. Ken also had the right look to captivate the audience.
Kenneth Wayne Shamrock has had a hard road to success, both inside and outside of the ring. He was born Kenneth Kilpatrick, but was not properly cared for, going through a tumultuous childhood before he was eventually adopted by the late Bob Shamrock. Bob took an interest in Ken’s life and saw his potential, especially as an athlete. Ken truly loved to fight. His competitive nature ultimately led him to Japan, where he was working as a professional wrestler. Eventually, he was offered some non-scripted fights in Pancrase and he had immediate success, ultimately becoming the 1st King of Pancrase. After only 3 fights overseas, Ken was fighting NHB at the debuting Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he debuted impressively, but tapped out to Royce Gracie in the semi-finals. Ken and fellow legend Royce Gracie would captivate audiences in the early UFC’s as they appeared to be levels above everybody else. By 1995, Ken appeared to be the best fighter in Japan, but his loss to Royce Gracie from UFC 1 was killing him inside. He finally secured a rematch at UFC 5 against the mythical legend that would garner him the respect of everybody. After these two men fought to a draw, Shamrock was “unofficially” declared a winner by many fans, because Royce looked worse for the wear. This event drew 260,000 PPV buys, a gigantic number for that period in MMA’s infancy. Royce wouldn’t fight again in the UFC until UFC60.
Meanwhile, Ken was given a shot at the prior tournament winner, Dan Severn at UFC 6, for the Superfight Title. He defended this title 3 times before losing a boring fight to Dan Severn. He would demolish Bryan Johnson and then head to the WWF. Ken was in the prime of his fighting career, with a compiled record of 23-5-2. Ken was often considered to be the “World’s Most Dangerous Man”, at this point in time, a moniker that would become overused in his future profession.
While becoming popular with pro-wrestling fans in the WWF from 1996-1999, Ken was still training with the MMA team he once constructed, the Lion’s Den and was interested in rejuvenating his fighting career. He signed with PRIDE FC, who would work hard to get his premier show on North American PPV. He would debut at the PRIDE GP in 2000, as he looked amazingly impressive with a knockout against Alexander Otsuka. Shamrock would once again perform phenomenally against “Ironhead” Fujita, before “heart palpitations” forced Ken’s corner to throw in the towel. After injuries and such, Ken finally met up with Don Frye at PRIDE19, competing at a high level in a 3 round war that would earn him Don Frye’s respect.
Still a huge name to casual viewers, Ken agreed to take on extremely popular, up and comer Tito Ortiz for the Light Heavyweight Title at UFC 40. Ken took the match extremely personally; as Tito had disrespected Ken, and the rest of the Lion’s Den all the way back at UFC19. This fight was one of the most popular fights in UFC history, as even casual fans had legitimate interest in this one. Tito won a one-sided affair but Ken gave it all he had despite a torn ACL. Ken Shamrock and Kimo fought at UFC48, and this event had more buys than UFC47, headlined by Chuck and Tito. Ken won impressively with a knee to Kimo’s jaw. At age 41, Ken was placed on the first ever UFC to take place live on cable TV. He fought Rich Franklin and was knocked out for the first time in his entire career. He then fought Sakuraba in Japan in a fight, which he claims was stopped prematurely. Still, due to his undeniable popularity, Dana gave him the opportunity to coach on The Ultimate Fighter, which would culminate in a rematch (or two) with Tito.
While the show didn’t necessarily work out well for good ole’ Ken, he has never been one to pass up an opportunity to compete. If you give Ken a challenge, he will take it and never look back. While he may never again be the dominant fighter he once was, he is always willing to fight for respect, and whether people love him or hate him, they have grown to appreciate MMA in large part because of him.