The inaugural UFC middleweight champion Frank Shamrock appeared recently on Submission Radio for a wide-ranging discussion. Shamrock left the UFC in 1999 with an incredible win over Tito Ortiz.
His next fight was a Split Decision win over Elvis Sinosic Decision at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2000. Then he beat former student Shannon Ritch in a kickboxing contest. In 2003 he tapped Bryan Pardoe for the WEC light heavyweight title. Then he dropped to middleweight at knocked out Cesar Gracie in 20 seconds. Gracie never had an MMA fight before or since, but both figures had huge followings in the area, and the event sold a massive number of tickets.
Then Shamrock lost to Renzo Gracie on a disqualification, and won the Strikeforce middleweight belt beating Phil Baroni. Finally injuries caught up with him and he lost back to back fights with Cung Le and Nick Diaz, and retired.
Shamrock revealed that he got equity in Strikeforce, and thus is enjoying the good life. He suggests UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor do likewise.
“A hundred percent and I think he should exercise it until he gets it,” said Shamrock. “I mean, that’s what I did. That’s how I’m chilling and hanging out and enjoying my life. I was able to break my contract and took equity in Strikeforce, launched that, and sold it back to ‘em. So there’s many ways to get paid, but when you have as much power as him, this is when you do a power move like I did and walk away. Like, see ya, good luck with your promotion, let me know how it works out for you.”
“I just think they will slowly try to chip away at his stardom. But he’s a product of this environment, where the job is not to create a star, the job is to create a brand. And if a star’s created, you just control them as much as you can. So then that makes the star want to leave and do all this other stuff. You know, it’s not good chi.
“He wants to be part of the winning team, must be compensated. So I think he can do that if he does this strategically. You know what I did, I was like alright, well good luck. I retired and I had the foresight and the legal representation to make sure that was in my contract. That just doesn’t exist anymore. That door’s been closed. But there’s other doors and he’s got all the power. He’s the only star I know. Him and Ronda, they’re the only people I know in the UFC, besides Rogan and Goldberg (laughs).”
“I would have a serious sit down with continuing on. Because the way the promoter does it, is they try and stretch you – ‘well we just won’t let you fight because you’re under an exclusive contract,’ so you’ll get old and everybody will forget about you. But he has a type of stardom where he can walk right into television and film and keep that level of stardom growing to where then the UFC, much like the WWE when The Rock got so big, they’d have to act on their model and come back and say, ‘well let’s be partners then, let’s hang out, let’s figure out a way to get you back in here to make that money we were all making before.’ It’s just money, it all comes down to money. But you gotta take a chance. I think this is his chance. If he wants to make Mayweather money, you gotta make a Mayweather move.”
The “Mayweather move” term references the fact that FMJ hires the promoter, effectively promoting himself. Mayweather floated the idea of a boxing match with McGregor, and the Irishman has been angling for it since. Shamrock however is dubious.
“I don’t think Mayweather’s never going to accept it or allow it to happen because that would be silly and too much money at stake,” said Shamrock. “It’s a no win. Mayweather’s got half a billion dollars in cash. He’s not going to go wrestle around with Conor who, God bless him, does not have half a billion dollars in cash. It’s not the same league.
“It’s all posturing and promotion from the McGregor side – cause it’s smart, it’s what I would do and it’s what smart people would do to control the marketplace, but it’s not reality because Mayweather’s people will never let it happen because of the value of contents. They don’t equal the same, revenue streams aren’t the same.”
“I think [Mayweather] would have only to lose, and if I were Conor, I’d just kick him in the head and pocket my 25 million.”
Shamrock is no stranger to the concept of an MMA star vs. boxing star contest.
“I tried it with Mike Tyson back in the day, and it’s like no, the money revenue on either sides are just, they’re not even close,” he said. “We got to the table with [Tyson’s] manager which he then told us some terms which were way out of my league and what I wanted to do and everything. It was one of those Floyd Mayweather moments. I was like, alright then (laughs), I’ll continue forth. Cause I thought it was a great idea. I thought, hey, it’s perfect, it’d elevate everybody. But we were on different playing fields. He was Mike Tyson, I was Frank Shamrock in a burgeoning young sport where he had everything to lose. So to me it’s the exact same situation. And if I were on the other side, I’d be like, I ain’t fighting that crazy Irish Scottish dude, whatever he is, mad man. Makes no sense. But who knows.
“And it’s a great story and I love it and I hope he keeps doing it and I hope it moves the needle and I hope he uses this leverage and opportunity for something important, you know, like making a statement or supporting one of these leagues or at least putting himself in a position where he can decide the game and what he wants to get out of it.”
“The plan was mixed martial arts and all of that. This was 97, 98, I was a superstar. It was just after I retired from the UFC, because then I was free agent. So I was out moving market. And yeah, they weren’t like I thought, they were like, ‘it will be boxing, it’s X amount of millions, we want this much.’ And I was like, ‘okay (laughs), thank you.’ It was a lesson.”
“Don’t even know [if Tyson knew about the proposed fight]. I never even met him on that occasion, so I don’t even know. It may have never even got to him. I’ve only met him socially a few times and I never brought it up because I thought it would be weird. But from that point, yeah, it was literally sit down, it was like a seven-minute meeting. I was like, alright, thank you. And then that’s why I believe there’s a discrepancy there. I don’t think it’s going to be made up in the short term.”
Shamrock also spoke of becoming disillusioned with the sport.
“I remember the moment where I decided I was gonna stop fighting,” he said. “I think I was disillusioned before that, but it was just before my daughter was born. I was still fighting Cung but it was just, I realized that in order to achieve my goals I’d have to be really, you know, downright dirty and mean on the negotiation table and to do things I wanted to do, and I just realized I don’t want to do that no more. You know? Beating people up is enough, now I gotta chop their heads off in a boardroom. When I realized it was getting so much bigger and there was so much at stake and the rules were changing, it became less of an art and of interest to me.”
Shamrock also discussed the emergence of the MMAAA, which like the PFA and the MMAFA seeks to organize fighters.
“It just seems like a little too late,” he said. “You know, you kind of missed the boat. But I’m hoping that one or whoever organization gets organized and makes some sort of position. So I gotta think it’s progress, but I think it’s, you know…. when I look at businesses, this industry is rolled up. This industry’s done.”
“It’s just like when we go into industries and we buy the whole industry, we roll up the industry – you know, health care. This industry’s been completely dominated and monopolized and then monetized, and now it’s just a broken sport. You know, like it’s all messed up. So I think a fighters union is entirely needed, but it was needed five years ago when this thing was going through that structural change where that thing’s super, super important. And now I think they’re going to have extreme difficulty gaining any ground. But I think it’s good news that they’re doing it and I’m supporting all of it because I think it’s progress.”
“It’s the same problem, you know, good intending people that are not all united and working in one unison. Things like the Ali act will change the structure of the sport, but the UFC worked really hard to dominate and create a sport that was run in a very specific fashion and it was not to help the athletes in performing, it was not to line their pockets, it was to build a brand, it was very strategic. But now you got a sport that’s run from top down. The athletes are not educated about real management because they’re not encouraged to. The whole thing is still ancient in nature, although it looks like a four-billion-dollar sport because someone’s paying four billion for it.”
One of the faces of the MMAAA, Donald Cerrone, has been adamant about the need for some kind of a pension plan.
“These guys are gonna be jacked,” agreed Shamrock. “You know, they’re gonna be all crippled and broken up and I think it’s gonna move forward. Some of that is gonna happen. Everybody’s on it now and it will all move forward. But I think it’s going to take a long time, much like it took a long time to get us to this stage. I mean, I was saying this a decade ago – like hey guys, I don’t know about this. You can’t just give all the power away and let them control everything. But it is what it is.”
So would Shamrock get involved with the MMAAA?
“Perhaps,” he said. “I’ve kind of moved on sadly to other industries like television, film, charity work. Like back to my statements, it’s been rolled up. When we identify an industry that we want to control and unify or consolidate, we buy it all. We redirect it, we rebrand it, we re-chi it and then we resell it for more money. That’s what happened to MMA. And I was unnecessary and unsupportive of the UFC’s chi, so I got pushed aside and devalued in my journey. So I moved on to the next thing.”
“I’ve looked back on it and my only regret is that I’ve always wished that I could do more, or hoped I could do more because it did so much for me, really, coming from where I came from and the life that I had. So I felt a huge obligation to the sport and always put it up there with like providing for my family and taking care of my health, but I just got disillusioned from it.
“I realized that the business is the business. It’s a tough business, there’s a lot at stake, there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of players and you have a limited lifespan on your body. And at the end of the day, I’m the one who cares the most about me, my success, my body, my thing. And I didn’t want to hang out and work with people who didn’t care as much as me, much the same as I do in my businesses now. So I just kind of got disillusioned by this sport and the experience.
“You know, I love it, I want everyone to excel in it and do well in it, but if you go back and just read the history, you’ll figure out exactly what’s wrong with it and what needs to change. And it will all work itself out, but it’s gonna be a long arduous journey.”
Shamrock and UFC president Dana White do not send each Christmas cards. Shamrock had an acrimonious relationship with his foster father and foster brother Ken Shamrock, but the two eventually reconciled to some degree. Frank was asked if he might at some point reconnect with the UFC and be in the UFC Hall of Fame.
“I’m certainly not closing the door,” he said. “I don’t really care. Nobody’s beaten down my door and asking me to do it. And I live a pretty good and full life, so I hope it happens for everybody, but I’ll be okay either way.”