by Mick Hammond – MMAWeeklyTV
Do you want to be a fu*&ing fighter? Those were the immortal words of Dana White on the hit TV show Ultimate Fighter. Ken Shamrock doesn’t want to know if you want to be a fighter, he wants to know if you can make it through the most grueling tryout in MMA.
You think you have what it takes to make it through the legendary Lion’s Den tryouts? Watch Part 1 today on MMAWeekly TV. Watching young fighters gruel through cold, muddy, sweat is something you don’t see everyday, but our cameras followed the action during the legendary tryout’s of the Lion’s Den. See the fighters as they break down during the exhausting workout and you can see behind the scenes action you can’t get anywhere else, but on MMAWeekly TV.
You can watch the actual tryouts right now on MMAWeekly TV. Also MMAWeekly’s Mick Hammond gave his take of the action first hand in Part I of our two part series of the Lion’s Den Tryouts.
Check out the video right now and here’s Mick’s article…
Ken Shamrock’s Lion’s Den team has been around almost since the inception of MMA back in 1994. One of the first true teams in the sport, the Lion’s Den dominated the early scene, practically everywhere you turned if there was a high profile fight or a Championship match, there was a Lion’s Den fighter involved.
Fighters like Guy Mezger, Pete Williams, Jerry Bohlander, Mikey Burnett, Vernon “Tiger” White, and of course Shamrock himself provided a solid foundation for organizations like Pancrase and the UFC to build on. However after years of dominance, things changed and the team began to lose ground to others and eventually much of the core of the group left the sport.
When Ken made the decision recently to relocate from San Diego to Susanville, California, he decided that it was time to reform the team and bring in fresh young talent and rebuild from the ground up. So open tryouts were devised and earlier this year Shamrock formally brought in three new fighters into the fold.
In order for fighters to be considered for the team they had to go through a harsh try-out designed specifically to weed out the weak and find out who truly wanted a once in a lifetime opportunity to train and learn from one of the sport’s all-time greats. So when six young fighters showed up at Ken’s five-acre estate in Susanville in early December for the second tryouts, they had no idea what they’d be in for over the course of nearly eight hours that would test every aspect of their being.
Upon arriving the fighters were immediately instructed to go on a thirty minute run around Ken’s estate in around 30 degree weather. Most had shown up wearing fight shorts and shirts under their sweats, perhaps anticipating spending the day inside the Lion’s Den training center, to say they were unprepared for the first tasks at hand is an understatement.
After finishing the run, the fighters then hauled thirty-pound sandbags and seventy-five pound drums of water throughout Ken’s property. Going the same path as they ran before then having to haul the gear up and down a muddy slope. Already, fatigue had begun to take a heavy toll as most fell numerous times, dropping the bags and drums, only to have to pick them up immediately with cold hands and continue to push on.
This happening all under the watchful eye of the master himself Shamrock and the current members of the Lion’s Den including Vernon ‘Tiger’ White, KOTC fighter Richard Montoya, and rising youngster Ashe Bowman along with medical professionals.
While Shamrock himself remained quiet, occasionally voicing concerns or orders to participants and Lion’s Den members, White, Montoya, and Bowman made sure that the incoming crop of hopefuls comfort level was decidedly low. Barking orders as much a drill sergeant at a military installation would, the Lion’s Den fighters were merciless, often encouraging the prospects to quit and make it easier on everyone involved by giving up.
This of course is all part of the process. The psychological breaking down of a prospect helps the evaluators see what each hopeful is made of. By constantly berating a prospect mentally it also reaffirms their desire to defy those who would doubt them, making them want to succeed and prove that they deserve to be there, taking their mind away from the physical pain they are enduring.
After the last man finished hauling sandbags and drums, there was a brief break to allow the hopefuls to rest and rehydrate under the watchful eye of the volunteer medical staff. While Ken and the current team go inside his home and enjoy warm coffee and comfortable surroundings, the prospects continue to endure the weather outside in an open garage.
A few moments later it’s back to work as the hopefuls do numerous wind sprints and then proceed to carry each other along the same path. We begin to see the early signs of unity between the youngsters. Offering encouragement to each other they continue to push forward as a group, finding comfort any way they can to offset the harshness received from the Lion’s Den fighters.
When all the running is complete it’s off to the Lion’s Den training center for the next round of torture. Immediately after arriving in the cold building, fighters are told to get their gear together and warm up. From there they begin to walk on their hands and feet along the perimeter of the workout mats. While it may seem simple to do a modified version of crawling, it isn’t, hunched over in an awkward position, going at a constant pace for what seemed like forever, it wasn’t long before the hopefuls slowed and began to drop.
It all became too much for one hopeful who couldn’t continue and was forced to quit. The first casualty of the day was taken, one down, five to go.
From there the prospects crab walked back and forth from one end of the mats to the other. Showing signs of continued fatigue it was again time to allow the hopefuls to bond as they barrel walked across the mats, one fighter supporting the other’s legs as they walked on their hands. Again while the bonding helped moral between the prospects, it was also setting them up for a harsher lesson to happen later in the tryouts.