Frank Shamrock has worn just about every hat a person can wear in the sport of mixed martial arts.
From legendary fighter to promoter to commentator to coach, Shamrock has been around the sport almost since its inception, and he's always been able to stay relevant even when his own competitive career inside the cage came to an end.
Following the demise of Strikeforce, where Shamrock once acted as partner and commentator for Showtime broadcasts, the former UFC champion was happy touring with his autobiography and working on some other projects.
Until a phone call came in late one night that greatly intrigued him.
The call was from Spike TV President Kevin Kay, who was putting together a wish list of potential candidates to get involved with the new Bellator reality show Spike TV was developing. Shamrock admits he wasn't looking for something to do at the time when Kay gave him a ring, but that call changed everything and led to his role as coach on the new show Fight Master: Bellator MMA.
Shamrock told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview, "It wasn't so much that I ran out of stuff to do and need to do something else, it was just Kevin's (Kay) call. He just personally called me and said I've got a great idea for this sport, this is what we're trying to do and we want you involved cause you're one of the original guys. That was really the catalyst to doing this whole thing, otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it."
The reality show will follow 32 fighters as they work with four different coaches to try and make it through a tournament, with the winner ultimately finding a home in Bellator Fighting Championships.
Shamrock will work alongside UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, popular coach Greg Jackson and former Bellator title holder Joe Warren on the new reality show that's in the process of beginning filming in New Orleans.
The show gained quite a bit of attention over the last week once Couture's name was attached to the project and the subsequent reaction from UFC president Dana White.
White was none too happy with the way things went down that led to Couture exiting the UFC family and joining the competitors at Bellator and Spike TV, but Shamrock sees his recent comments as nothing but positive for their new show. The more people are buzzing about the situation—all the better for Bellator and Spike TV, according to Shamrock.
He also believes White is even more irate because their new reality show is a sign of things to come. Bellator looks to become a major player in the MMA market in 2013, which obviously challenges the UFC.
Shamrock stated, "I think it's great. I think Dana's been tremendous, always consistent, and speaking his mind and promoting what we're doing. The last time Dana was real upset about us doing something was with the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and you saw what happened as a result of his fear of our growth in the sport."
"I think he's going to experience the same thing. We've got Viacom behind us, we've got some of the greatest reality show producers on the planet, if I was Dana White I'd be a little nervous, too."
Dana White's feelings aside, Shamrock is really happy that Bellator is making this serious push with the new reality show, but also that a company like Viacom is behind it all. Viacom is a major entertainment company with access to money and resources that Shamrock knows will benefit a promotion like Bellator, as it tries to make its way in the MMA marketplace.
"They've got a long-term definitive plan that differs from the other guys. I've been watching Bellator for a long time, but until I actually sat down with Bjorn (Rebney) and Kevin Kay and really got an idea of what these guys have planned in the future for the sport, I didn't even really understand their passion until they sat me down and showed me all the toys."
"These guys are very serious about taking the good qualities of mixed martial arts and making sure everybody knows what they are, and that's been my mission since day one."
Having Spike TV and owner Viacom on board for this launch is key, and Shamrock knows from personal experience when he was at Strikeforce that a television partner really does make all the difference between success and failure in sports entertainment:
"You saw what network support did for Strikeforce when Showtime came aboard. You saw what Spike TV did for the UFC when they came aboard, because the UFC was dying before Spike came along," Shamrock said.
He added, "It's having that network promotion, that network support, that integration. That's the next level for high level combative sport. I hate to say it but I'd much rather have Viacom behind me than the UFC."
Now that the contracts are signed and the show is beginning development, Shamrock can just go back to his favorite job of being coach. He's excited to work with a new group of athletes in Bellator and show them the ropes, as they try their best to make a place in the industry that Shamrock's called home for almost the last 20 years.
"Coach is still my favorite, it is still the thing that I'm best at," said Shamrock. "Being a teacher, being a coach and helping guys develop people and something I still have a real passion for, and for whatever reason business has taken me in a different direction and now I'm doing what I'm doing, and I'm super excited about taking a step back to what I was really good at and what was helping people."
Damon Martin is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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