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Respect the Pioneers: Ken Shamrock

Rating: 3 votes, 4.67 average.
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.

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  1. Rob's Avatar
    Ken was indeed a pioneer and someone who was invaluable to paving the way to the MMA we have today. It's a shame though, that he kept fighting past his prime and let his emotions get in the way of things.

    P.S He's lucky he didn't have a rematch with Bas. *Cold stare*

    Good posti- err blogging.
  2. ninjashoes's Avatar
    I heard the Lions Den tryouts were incredibly tough. Like you would have to do 200 pushups in a row to even be considered.
  3. MMAsterkillah's Avatar
    Thanks guys. Ken may have tarnished his career, but I don't think any longtime MMA fan can claim they didn't think he was one of the toughest men on the planet at one point in time. As far as commercial success, Ken was instrumental for early MMA. He also was able to prove some of the elemental skills of MMA were entirely effective.
  4. MMAsterkillah's Avatar
    PS I am not a Ken fan in the least, but I believe that he deserves the "respect" that he has fought his whole life to gain. With the recent passing of Bob, Ken's success should also be respected.
  5. electricsheep81's Avatar
    I don't really post much, long time lurker, but I had to log in and tell you that I really enjoyed reading this post.

    A little off topic, but should Shamrock be considered the first UFC HW Champion? If you think about it, he lost his Super Fight belt to Severn, then Coleman beat Severn for the belt, which was then turned into the HW belt at that fight.
    Updated 02-03-2010 at 05:00 AM by electricsheep81
  6. electricsheep81's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ninjashoes
    I heard the Lions Den tryouts were incredibly tough. Like you would have to do 200 pushups in a row to even be considered.

    I remember years ago, just before TUF started, Shamrock released a series of videos on MMAWEEKLY, that showed hopefuls trying out for the Lion's Den. The videos that I saw showed dudes outside in the dead of winter, running until they threw up, then going in and having to do push-ups and so on. It was their way of trying to break the hopeful and seeing who was mentally tough enough and who wasn't.
  7. MMAsterkillah's Avatar
    Thanks for your kind words, eletricsheep. In a way, I think you are certainly right about Shamrock being the first champion. Maybe he wasn't formally, but you are right about the development of the title.
  8. ninjashoes's Avatar
    I remember my first or second exposure to MMA was seeing Ken Shamrock on one of those primetime news shows. It was a human cockfighting piece but it actually helped spark my interest in MMA(noone called it MMA back then it was just ultimate fighting).

    I think the first time I ever saw anything about MMA was a Karate mag I bought as a kid. I think it may have had something about Ken Shamrock in Pancrase as well. I remember thinking "wow that guy is buff he must be a badass" when I saw a pic of him.

    There was honestly a time when Ken was considered the best fighter on the planet. Probably after the second fight with Royce.

    Another thing alot of people don't realize is that Ken may have single handedly contributed the the growth of the sport more than any other human. Considering the attention he brought to MMA when he was in the WWF and then his fued with Tito which was the first great MMA fued.
  9. Radar's Avatar
    I found my first UFC videos in a store in Canada back in about 1994.

    I smuggled them back to Australia like they were hard drugs.

    Ken Shamrock was indeed the man in those days.
  10. MMAsterkillah's Avatar
    LOL, Radar.

    That was pretty much a similar experience to mine. I used to go rent wrestling tapes (WWF etc.) when I was 8-10 years old. Well, right near Summerslam I noticed a picture of Scott Morris' smashed face and asked my dad "what is this?". He told me it was real fighting and that my mom would be pissed if she saw me watching it, but he let me rent them every once in a while and I was immediately hooked.

    My mom didn't really mind too much because instead of seeing people get choked with a wire, hit with a chair and get right up, it kind of showed me the true dangers of hand to hand combat.

    WAR old-school MMA!!!!! WAR KENNY's contributions to the sport!
    Updated 02-09-2010 at 11:41 PM by MMAsterkillah (added youtube link!)