By Elton "Hobbie" Hobson
This past Sunday played host to one of MMA’s most tragic moments. Unless you happened to be in Australia for Impact FC’s sophomore offering, chances are you missed it.
At 46, weathered, battled weary years of age, Ken Shamrock’s ghost took to the cage down under. Over the last five years he has gone 1-6, and tested positive for steroids in his only win. He has not been relevant to any world title in any organization for almost a decade.
Yet he stillfights in the main event. Like so many a faded veteran, toiling on long after the body has given out, Shamrock is surviving on his legend, past accolades, fan respect and nothing else.
It was a scene straight out of “The Wrestler.” Against Pedro Rizzo-a man likely on the downside of his own caree -Shamrock was brutally savaged. He landed nothing of consequence on Rizzo, while the Brazilian turned The World’s Most Dangerous Man into The World’s Most Dangerous Speedbag.
Three minutes of eating leg kicks, and Ken could take no more. He dropped to a knee and waved his opponent off.
It was Shamrock’s desperate attempt to bow out of the fight with some dignity. Unfortunately, he has practically made a career out of complaining about early referee stoppages. Thus, Big John seemed willing to let Shamrock eat a few good measure shots to the face as he cowered against the cage helplessly. It was one of the more tragic examples I’ve seen in MMA of chickens coming home to roost.
But wait, it‘s not over. Taking to the microphone after the fight to an appreciative crowd, Ken Shamrock spoke about his plan for a graceful career bow out and retirement.
“As long as the fans come and keep watching me, I’ll keep getting beat up.”
The audience cheered in response.
Fade to black.
Queue the haunting Bruce Springsteen end credits song.
So often, we are concerned with the possibility of death in our sport - and rightly so. When Michael Kirkham tragically died as a result of injuries sustained in a fight, the entire community responded with shock, sadness, and self-examination. Yet when one of the first faces of our sport has accepted the role of “Punching Bag for Hire,” does that not merit at least some kind of critical self-examination?
Make no mistake: Kenneth Wayne Kilpatrick Shamrock is without a doubt one of the founding fathers of modern day mixed martial arts. Long before there was even the idea of a UFC, Shamrock was kicking ass and breaking legs in Japan’s Pancrase Organization.
He was at the very first UFC event, was the first ever UFC Superfight Champion, and became the #2 guy behind Royce Gracie in the early days of the organization.
Combine those acclaimed credentials with Shamrocks clothing line, his franchised chain of MMA gyms across the U.S, his money from a well-paying gig in the WWE, and the millions he’s earned as a UFC PPV headliner-even in his later years-and Shamrock should be looking at a long comfortable retirement.
Instead, he’s getting demolished in upstart promotions in Australia for peanuts. What happened, Ken?
Maybe he had a bad manager who robbed him of his fortune. Maybe he succumbed to the fast life of booze, cars, jewelery and women like so many others do when they hit it big. Maybe he invested all his money in BP futures.
What we know is that Ken Shamrock is out of money, likely deep in debt, and will keep shambling down to the ring or cage as long as someone is willing to sign a cheque with his name on it.
It’s truly remarkable to compare Ken to his younger brother Frank, who actually retired with some grace and dignity a couple of weeks ago.
Frank has already moved comfortably into his post-fighting profession of color commentary, and still profits by his seminars, merchandising, and so on. He has admirably and effectively set himself up to live comfortably the rest of his days, more of a rare trait in fighting then one would think, or hope.
Which brings me back to Ken. No warrior likes to be told they can’t. No competitor likes to be told they are no longer able to compete. No one who is a former champion and icon once known as the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” wants to face the reality that their fighting days are long over.
But it’s still the reality nonetheless.
It’s time to hang it up, Ken. For yourself. For your legacy. For your fans. Hell, for your family, who will be left to pick up the pieces after you destroy yourself fighting into your golden years. While there is still a shred of dignity to be salvaged. While there is still a smidgen of self-respect left to be earned. While there is still a remote possibility that you won’t be remembered as a broken down old dinosaur who didn’t know when to walk away - walk away, Ken.
Today. Now. Before it’s too late for your legacy - or your health.
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