If there’s one thing Frank Shamrock isn’t suffering from, it’s a lack of confidence. He’s long been one of the sport’s most outspoken competitors, which usually makes him a pleasure to talk to, even if you never know exactly how seriously he expects you to take some of the things he says. With his Strikeforce bout against Nick Diaz just a day away, Shamrock talked with me about his legacy, his plan for the fight, what he thinks about Diaz’s extracurricular habits, and more. Let’s just say I was never bored during this conversation.
Thanks for talking with me Frank. I have to say, this bout seems like kind of an odd choice for you right now. Tell me, what’s really at stake in this fight?
I don’t know (laughs). Honestly, I don’t know. It’s just another fight to me. I think there are some questions about my age and my body. I don’t think I have any problems with my body, but everybody else seems to think so. Other than that, it’s another physical challenge for me. I don’t think I have a lot to gain from it really, but it’s another fight.
So you have no lingering injuries going into this fight? No knee problems or arm problems?
No, I feel great. My ribs are bugging me, but they’ve been bugging me for a few years so that’s nothing new. My knee’s fine. My shoulder’s healed up.
What do you think of Nick Diaz the fighter?
As a fighter I think he expresses himself well in the ring. Obviously he’s got some social and emotional issues. But when he gets in the ring he can express himself. He’s good standing up, he’s good on the ground, so he’s a pretty well-rounded guy. In that way he’s definitely a challenge. He’s quite a bit younger than me. He’s very long, too. That helps him standing up but it also gives him good leverage on the ground, so that’s something I’ve been working on.
Do you think he’ll try and beat you on the ground, or will he want to stand and box?
I think he’s going to try and box. I think he thinks his boxing might be superior. But I have a feeling he’s going to change his mind halfway through and want to get it to the ground. His strength is definitely on the ground, as much as he talks about his stand-up.
Does that mean you’ve been preparing more for his ground game and his jiu-jitsu?
Yeah, I’ve also been working on my wrestling, my takedowns, and my defense against takedowns. That’s something I’ve just accepted in recent years, just letting people take me down. With Nick though, I think it will take less energy to stop his takedowns than it would to work from the bottom.
Yeah, but I just haven’t shot for about ten or twelve years. I just haven’t. I don’t think I’ve taken anybody down since Igor Zinoviev in my second title defense in the UFC. It’s just not in my nature anymore. My knee’s all healed up, so it’s not a problem for me to shoot. I just feel like striking is easier for me now and more effective.
So how do you see this fight ending?
I’m going to knock him out in the first round.
Just like that, huh? First round?
Yep, first round. I think he’s going to be way too slow, because he’s all blown up for this fight. I’ll hit him with a right hand to the body, then a right uppercut, and then a left hook, and then he’ll fall down. And then I’ll either jump on him or let him back up. I’ll probably jump on him because I’m getting too old to be dancing around up there.
This week a story came out in the L.A. Times where Nick explained that he smokes weed leading up to every bout, and he explained how he avoids detection. What do you think of an opponent of yours basically saying he’s going to fight you with banned substances in his system?
(Laughs) Well, I certainly don’t agree with it. I guess if he passes the test, those are the rules. But I certainly don’t agree with his lifestyle and his marketing of that lifestyle as a part of mixed martial arts, because I don’t think that’s a part of the sport. I think he’s somewhat of a freak in that way.
Well, marijuana isn’t performance-enhancing, is it?
I don’t know, maybe for some people it is. It’s obviously something he believes in. I don’t think he’s Rastafarian or anything, so it’s not like it’s a religious thing. I think it’s like medication for him. Maybe it calms his mind. Maybe he’s got a frayed mind.
He doesn’t seem very calm most of the time. At the press conference you tried to shake his hand and you gave you the middle finger in the face.
I think a lot of that is a gimmick. I think he’s a good kid. I think he just doesn’t know how to express himself, and I also think he’s incredibly nervous opposite somebody as polished and experienced as I am. Like a little kid, you know, you yell and scream and throw a fit and it covers up what’s really going on. I’ve always known him to be polite and personable and respectful to me. I’ve always enjoyed his company, to be honest with you. But this fight has changed the way we interact, definitely.
I think he’s just scared. I think he’s scared and nervous and doesn’t know what to do. I mean, I don’t know him that well. He’s never been to my house for dinner or anything. But I have nothing against him personally. His gimmick, his marketing, aside from his obsession with marijuana, I think the rest of it has been very good. I need somebody opposite of me to help sell a fight. I like having somebody with that animosity across from me.
When it comes to the actual fight, you like to showboat a little in there. What’s that about?
You know what, I have no idea. It just comes out. I’m in there doing my thing and all of a sudden I’m doing something like that. I never think about it. It’s never a conscious decision. I’m an entertainer, and to me the fight is the celebration. It’s the party after all the sweat and the tears. And sometimes I get a little carried away at the party. I’m trying to curtail some of that, because I think I put myself in jeopardy sometimes when I do that.
I’m curious about the 179-pound catchweight for this fight. Was that your idea? Where did it come from?
I have absolutely no clue. It was really a three-day process. The first day my friend Scott (Coker) called me and said, we got the contract and we’re going to do a Showtime show and will you fight. The answer was yes. The second day was, how about Nick Diaz? And the answer was, of course. And the third day was, how about 179 pounds? I said yes to all three. I don’t know where that magic number came from, but when I thought about it I realized it was perfect for me. It’s not hard for me to make 179. I’m 185 pounds, so it’s not difficult. I don’t know if it came from his camp or what, but it’s fine with me.
Let’s talk about your brother, Ken. He’s fallen on some hard times lately. You’ve been pretty critical of him, as have a lot of people. Why do you think he’s doing what he’s doing in these small shows against nobody opponents?
Besides ego, I think he needs the money. He doesn’t have any money. He didn’t save it. He’s got no business. He has no money, so what else is he going to do? He’s got no skill set. He made millions of dollars. But if you don’t save it, it goes away. I don’t know what he did with it. I’m not into his business and I don’t know his business, but I know some of his business associates and he doesn’t have any money.
Do you ever worry that you’ll go on past the point where you should hang it up?
I trust that my community, my wife and other people will tell me when it’s too much. But fighting and entertaining is the greatest drug you’ll ever experience. It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do. Being a superstar, feeling like a superman, it’s hard to go from that to selling t-shirts or whatever you end up doing. I’d love to say that I’ll know exactly when to give it up, but I trust the people around me to help me with that. I think a lot of fighters don’t have anyone around them to tell them what’s really going on.
When you do retire, what do you think your legacy will be?
My legacy, I hope it is what it is. I’m a guy who spoke the truth, stood for something, and always fought his hardest. I hope that’s what people remember me for.
That seems very different from when we talked a couple years ago and you said you’d be remembered as the greatest martial artist of the last twenty-five years.
I still think I’ll be remembered for that, yeah. But where I have trouble thinking about it is, I’m never going to leave this sport. At some point I’ll have to stop fighting, but I’ll continue to train and teach and advise and commentate, so I think my legacy will morph and change over the years. People are going to remember me as one of the best, regardless of what I do from this point forward.
Thanks, Frank. Anything else you want to say?
No. Oh, my book is coming out. I finished my first book ever. It’s an MMA for Dummies book. I got the first copy yesterday. It comes out April 16. It’s amazing to see fifteen years of your life, your notes, and your studying all laid out like that. I’m very proud of it.