Not many people know how to brand their name like Frank Shamrock. Frank followed in his adoptive brother Ken’s MMA footsteps and built a legendary career for himself, winning titles in the UFC, Pancrase, WEC, and Strikeforce, and knocking off some of the greatest fighters of all-time along the way. After stepping away from the sport for a while earlier this decade, Frank has returned with impressive wins, and since 1997 has suffered only one loss by disqualification.
Shamrock’s next fight will be against Cung Le on March 29th where he will defend his Strikeforce middleweight title against the former kickboxing champion and fan favorite. And of course, his “Blood Brothers” fight with Ken is still on the horizon. CagePotato recently chatted with Frank about the bad blood between him and his brother, the UFC’s exploitative business tactics, exactly when he’ll retire, and what makes him so damn weird.
CagePotato: How long has the fight with Cung Le been in the works?
Frank Shamrock: We really got serious about it three or four months ago. But it’s kind of been on my horizon for a while now.
Le’s a fantastic striker. How do you feel you match-up with him?
I’m hoping to stand up with him. I think MMA striking is a little bit different than traditional striking. And I don’t think he’s ready for the type of strength I can put on him. He’s going to be a good test for me.
Dana White has been quoted as calling you “a weird guy,” and you’ve had more than one public feud. Are you weird or just misunderstood at times?
I’m sure I’m weird in his book because I’m a damn good fighter who believes in my brand and won’t sell my brand to [the UFC]. To him, that’s weird.
The UFC has been losing big-name fighters lately for one reason or another. Where do you see the sport going as far as organizations, marketing, and free agents in the near future?
The truth is just catching up to the UFC. They’ve been the big business that’s been taking advantage of the fighters for a long time. Now everyone’s sort of figuring it out. Unfortunately, they have a big monopoly on the industry at this point, so it’s going to be difficult for other fighters to make it and get recognition elsewhere.
Do you think you’ve paved the way for a lot of fighters to realize the potential of branding their name and that they can spread their talents beyond MMA?
I think so. Hopefully, I’ve made a difference in that way. Mixed martial arts is still the only combative sport industry where the promoter can contract, hold the title, be the ranking system, be the distributor — they have a complete lock on everything associated with talent. Boxing is very evolved. They’ve got their own associations to monitor people, rankings, everything else. And the UFC, they rank you how they want to rank you, they match you up however they see fit. If they don’t like you, you disappear. If you spurn the powers that be, they take your title, they do whatever they want with you. It’s just not right.
The MMA world has been buzzing about the rumored fight between you and your brother Ken. The site www.bloodbrothersppv.com had an earlier countdown putting the fight later this year. Now the counter says it’s two years away. Can you shed some light on when or if we’ll ever see the two of you fight?
Oh yeah, it’s definitely going to happen. We’ve got it slated for the first quarter of 2009. Ken and I are working hard on it. It’s just a matter of putting the final details on it. But I will say, it’s definitely going to happen.
We know a little bit about what started the bad blood between you and Ken. It now seems like it’s settled down a little over the years and you guys can at least talk. Is that the case?
(laughs) I don’t know, it seems to be the same as it always has been. We just have two really different views of how people should treat people, how people should act, and what constitutes a mixed martial artist. It’s difficult because we’re both in the public eye and we both are very outspoken about what we believe in. It’s always been challenging to marry those two things.
How do you think you’ll beat Ken?
I think he’s a candidate for tiring him out and knocking him out.
Was it difficult to convince those close to both of you that this fight is a good idea?
Yeah, my wife was very against it. I’m sure his wife was very against it in the beginning. But the more we talked about it, the more we built it and tried to make it work — it truly is an example of what mixed martial arts can do. Both positive and negative. The reason we haven’t broken into the mainstream is, all the good stories have already been told. And the UFC is not focused on creating stars with good stories, they’re focused on building their brand. We need a story that’s bigger than the sport, and speaks to the mainstream audience. It’s family — it goes to the root of everything.
Have you seen Ryan Shamrock (Ken’s son) fight?
Yeah, I did. Very scrappy youngster. And that’s a big part of our story, because that’s the future — from Ken’s side.
Does anyone else in your family train in MMA?
Just my wife. My son’s going to college. Our side — my side — is very artistic, scientific, business-oriented, and Ken’s side is the sports, fighting side. So it’s two very opposing views of what an artist should be.
Could your wife beat Ryan Shamrock?
I don’t know about Ryan, but I’d put my wife up against Ken’s wife. (laughs)
A lot of steroid scandals are dominating headlines these days. Do you think it’s turning into a witch-hunt or has this clean-up been way over-due?
It’s been way overdue. It’s been a problem in the sport for a very long time. For a long time, most people knew how to beat the tests, but now the tests can’t be beaten. That’s why you’re seeing these positive tests, it’s not that it suddenly popped up. It’s about time. What these guys don’t realize is they are setting an example for the youth of the future and these poor kids are growing up in a culture of drugs and steroids. To them it’s perfectly normal. We’re going to see their career shortened, their life span shortened — it’s just terrible.
What are your thoughts on the IFL’s change in format for this upcoming season?
It’s time. Obviously, the other format wasn’t catching. I think the team concept that they started with was way ahead of its time and the audience wasn’t ready for it.
When you were a guest star on “Walker, Texas Ranger”, did you rough up Chuck Norris?
No, they were really scared I was going to hurt him. Chuck is a huge fan and a family friend, so I was extra careful. We had a really good time.
You’ve also got a movie coming out soon.
Yeah, Red Canvas. But that’s the only acting role I have in the works right now. I’m very focused on fighting. My goal is to do a fight and throw a couple of roles in between. But I’m very serious about my fighting career and I think that’s where I can make the most impact.
You seem to have a lot of irons in the fire, business-wise. Tell us about some of your side-hustles.
The biggest one is Shamrock Martial Arts Academy, which is a franchise we’ve been building for two years. We’ll be building more of those in September. That’s been a big focus of ours. Then there’s our talent and development company, which is MMA Stars, at www.mmastars.com. That’s a big undertaking for us where we’re producing television shows and branding talent. And I have an entertainment company, MMA Entertainment, that we launched about five years ago. We’re producing live events, video games, publishing, licensing — I’m ridiculously busy!
Sounds like it. I had to book this interview a month in advance!
(laughs) I’ve always been this busy. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so successful. I like to work hard and I believe in what I’m doing. I believe in the Frank Shamrock brand and mixed martial arts can do something very positive for you. And I think that’s why Dana White thinks I’m weird. He looks at talent as, they should make him money, and he just throws them away when they’re done.
You also do a lot of charity work.
I sit on the board of a couple of charities, as a director, an ambassador, and advisor. I think charity is really important. It kind of makes you whole as a person and gives you something important to do — help people out.
Who’s been your toughest opponent?
A guy named Enson Inoue, who I fought in 1997 in Vale Tudo Japan. He came the closest to killing me and made me question myself. That was pretty tough. Most people never face that.
Aside from yourself, who do you think is the best fighter today?
How many more years do you want to keep fighting?
Ten more years. I’m going to retire in 2018. And by then I will have taken over the entire sport and hopefully reeducated the masses and the new fans. And changed the sport from a bunch of meatheads in a cage, to a bunch of artists — representing themselves. That makes me weird.