Here is Part II of my interview with UFC & MMA Legend Frank Shamrock. To read Part I, click here.
BL: Who were some of the younger fighters just making their bones in the sport when you were first leaving that caught your eye?
FS: One guy I always thought would be a superstar was Vitor Belfort. We were kind of coming around at the same time. I saw in him a new level of striking, his physical ability was off the charts. He was beating guys like Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva in devastating fashion.
BL: When you first retired, did you expect to be out as long as you were?
FS: No, I thought the sport would turn around in a couple of years. The sport was right on the edge. We were hired by the old UFC owners to go out and speak with the politicians. The resounding comment was "We love it, but it’s not a sport without rules and regulations." We were told "As soon as you get that done, you guys will be good."
Even when we got the rules implemented, the brand and the idea had already been tarnished in the eyes of the general public. The original marketing line of no rules didn’t go away for a long time and held us back. Once the media got a hold of it and we got a bad reputation, it took us a long time to change people’s minds. It took about five-and-a-half years to get things turned around.
BL: When did you first meet Dana White and the Fertitta brothers?
FS: I met Dana when he was Tito’s manager. When they bought the UFC, they flew me out and gave me their pitch. That was the first time I met Lorenzo and sat down with those guys.
BL: Was there one main reason why you couldn’t come to terms with them and make your way back to the UFC?
FS: The main reason was they didn’t know anything about the sport—they weren’t martial artists. They were a new company who had bought a damaged brand, but didn’t really know anything about the sport. For me, it was less of a risk to keep doing what I was doing.
Another reason I stayed in Japan was because I was making three or four times the money that they were offering me. At the time, the sport wasn’t that big here, while it was huge over in Japan. I also didn’t believe they were going to make it in the short term so I decided to go elsewhere.
BL: There is what seems to be some bad blood between you and Dana White. They have chosen to exclude you from their history, including your rightful place in the Top 100 UFC fights of all time. Do you think there will ever come a time where the two of you can sit down and work things out?
FS: I have no problem with any of those guys. I made a business decision a long time ago that didn’t involve them and they didn’t particularly like that. They have retaliated against me since then. I am okay with who I am and what I have done.
I don’t need to be in their Hall of Fame or Top 100. That’s their business; their company and they can do whatever they want. Everyone has an opinion about it, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.
When the sport becomes a real sport and by that I mean a sport with a ranking body, a commission and a union, they have all the elements necessary to protect the public, the athlete and the promotion. It has yet to get to that point; it’s still a one-man show.
BL: What was the organization that you decided to join rather than the UFC?
FS: At the time it was K-1, which was a kickboxing organization looking to promote MMA events. They paid me very well to be their man. The UFC was trying to build their brand and, because I wasn’t on their team, they decided to exclude me.
I didn’t take too kindly to being excluded because in all honesty it wasn’t really fair and as you know the rest is history.
BL: Are there any fighters that you regret never having the opportunity to fight?
FS: One guy that I could never seem to make it happen with was Kazushi Sakuraba. Everyone else I had at least one opportunity to face, but he was the one guy I was never able to pin down and come to terms with.
BL: How close did you come to having a rematch with Tito Ortiz?
FS: I had a shot at it when he was a free agent. I sat down with him and broke some bread. We kind of came to what I thought was a preliminary understanding, but I didn’t have the money that we both needed in order to make it come together.
Tito did well for himself; he picked a persona and ran with it. It was all a persona with him. I respected him tremendously, he’s a hell of a nice guy and I respect him immensely. He fought everyone in the world and is one of the main reasons the fighters of today make the money they do.
BL: Can you name one or two fighters of today who you believe are ahead of the crowd?FS: I really like Jon Jones and I think his future is pretty unlimited. I look at a fighter and see who the complete MMA package is. By that I mean they can do it all, punch, kick, wrestle, knee, etc. I think GSP has sort of established himself as the real deal because he is good in all of the areas.
I think Nick Diaz is up there. He has the ability to do everything. It’s just ridiculous how good he is. The world class athletes I like to call version III or generation III who are good at everything and great at one certain aspect. Anderson Silva is good at everything, but great at striking.
We are moving into the next generation where a guy will be great at everything and will continue to get better and better every time out. GSP is that guy and, if Nick Diaz improves his wrestling, he could be in that category. They will always have that one aspect where they are just a little bit better that will get them past their opponents.