78 seconds. For Ken Shamrock, it was a number he just couldn’t live with. Controversially stopped in the first round by Tito Ortiz in July, the UFC Hall of Famer jumped up almost instantly after referee Herb Dean called the bout after a barrage of shots from Ortiz and pleaded with anyone within earshot to let him out of the nightmare he was experiencing.
This is not the way he planned things, this is not the way he wanted to go out. For the previous 13 years, Shamrock lived his life as a professional fighter in a certain way, and right or wrong, he lived by the decisions he made and learned from his mistakes. One thing was a constant though – win or lose, he wanted to go out as a fighter, with his head held high.
In his eyes, he didn’t get afforded that courtesy on July 8th.
“I’ve earned the right over the years to be a fighter and be a world champion and to also be in the hall of fame,” said Shamrock. “That’s just the spirit I have and that’s how I got here – it was the will to win and the will to be the best. I had every intention of winning the fight, and I don’t believe it (stopping the fight) was the right thing to do.”
Having been in the fight game for a good portion of his adult life, the 42-year-old Shamrock didn’t expect much in the aftermath of the loss to his heated rival Ortiz, who now owned two victories over him (the first coming via TKO in 2002). Shamrock had also been the victim of what was perceived to be a quick hook just nine months earlier in a Pride bout in Japan against Kazushi Sakuraba after being knocked down by a left hand in the first round. For successive fights to end in such a manner was nothing short of bizarre.
“I was a little amazed that they happened so close together,” said Shamrock of his last two bouts. “I don’t know why they’re happening, but things happen for a reason. I can get mad and say all the things I want to say, but it doesn’t do any good. All I can do is try to fix them and not let them happen again.”
Shamrock figured his only course of action was to move on. He didn’t get a rematch with Sakuraba, and he certainly didn’t think he would get a third fight with Ortiz. Then the phone rang, and after all parties sat down and hashed out the details, Ortiz-Shamrock 3 was not only signed, but put on free television via Spike TV on October 10th.
“The Sakuraba one I didn’t get to do again; they didn’t let it happen, probably for good reason – they don’t want Sakuraba to get beat,” said Shamrock. “But this one here, they’re gonna let it happen again, and I’m just glad that they’re stepping it up and putting it back out there for the fans.”
It was the reaction of the fans that truly surprised Shamrock when it came to this third bout getting made.
“I’m not sure if I was surprised that I got the third fight, but more of how the fans pushed for it,” said the resident of Susanville, California. “They didn’t get what they paid for, so this had to happen again. I wanted to give it back to them, and Dana White, the UFC, Tito and myself said ‘hey, you know what? That fight wasn’t right, so let’s do it again. Let’s make it right and give it to them for free.’”
“I wouldn’t do it any other way.”
But at 42, it’s got to be tough to put yourself through the rigors of training camp, have the anticlimax of a 78 second fight, and then go back to the drawing board and do it all over again for an October fight. Shamrock admits that it’s not easy.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It really is because anybody who has fought any long period of time and has come to the point where they have to retire understands that you don’t start recovering that well. The injuries don’t go away, so it’s very difficult to prepare for a fight and be perfect and ready for it and then have it taken away from you and then have to go back and do the same thing all over again a couple of months later. So it’s not an easy task, but I’m up to it.”
And though Shamrock did let the “r” word slip, he insists that he has not made a decision about his fighting future after October 10th.
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen on October 10th, but I believe 100% when I step in the ring that I’m gonna win the fight, and from that point on, we’ll decide what happens,” said Shamrock, going back on a statement in an August article in the Lassen County News where he was quoted as saying that the Ortiz bout “is my retirement fight.” “I’m at a point now where I’m fighting, and fighting to win, and I’m not looking down the road to be a world champion or to take MMA by storm – I’ve done all that stuff. So I do one fight at a time, and the next fight is Tito and I’m taking it very seriously and I want to win very badly. What happens after that, we’ll decide. But win, lose, or draw, it’s time to bury the hatchet. We’ve done this thing three times.”
The biggest change in the lead-up to Ortiz-Shamrock 3 is that the hatred level seems to have toned down a bit. Now it was still hot in the ring after the rematch between the two, but at least from the Shamrock camp it appears that he is willing to let the feud end in the ring next week.
“When you’re in the fight business, everybody is a competitor and you don’t want to give anything up,” admits Shamrock, whose animosity with Ortiz dates back to the former light heavyweight champion’s bout with Shamrock’s fighter, Guy Mezger, in 1999. “You want to make sure that mentally and physically you can get to him. I’m a competitor and I don’t give any cushion to anybody. But I’m getting to a point in my career where I’m not gonna be a competitor anymore, so why carry the grudge on when I’m not actually in the game anymore? I’m not going to carry this on because it will make you old fast. I’m not gonna carry anger and grudges on anything I can’t do anything about. I’m not in this game for very much longer – Tito has been my rival for a very long time and we’ve had our words, but we fight and we get it done. When it’s done, it’s done. I’m not gonna retire out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or out of MMA thinking that I hate somebody and want to beat him up all the time because hey, I’m not there anymore.”
Ken Shamrock is a man who has achieved a lot in this game, and more importantly, he’s reached a level of peace within himself where he can walk away eventually without letting his vendetta against Ortiz haunt him. But don’t expect him to walk into the Octagon on October 10th waving an olive branch while harp-playing angels follow behind him. Uh-uh, Shamrock’s still a fighter, and all he’s thinking about is erasing what he feels was a 78-second mistake.
“My heart and my mind are definitely all in it,” he said. “When you get to a certain point you know how your body slows down and doesn’t recover as fast, but your mind and your will are still willing to go. I still have the fire.”