RENO, Nev., – The International Fight League, the world’s first team-based professional mixed martial arts league, and MMA legend Ken Shamrock, head coach of the new Nevada-based Lions team, conducted an open tryout, with more than 150 athletes vying for spots on his eight-member 2007 squad. The event, held at the Stadium Sport and Fitness Club lasted more than six hours, with athletes at all five official weight classes going through numerous drills and sparring in several mixed martial arts disciplines.
“I was impressed with not only the depth of talent in the attendees, but also with how many of the guys showed the desire and ability to learn and work within the team framework,” said Shamrock. “Skills and talent are important, but I’m looking for those guys that will be willing to do the things that make a team successful, while knowing that they can be the best and aren’t afraid to go out and prove it. I saw a lot of that in the gym today.”
Shamrock will be reviewing the grades and notes he and his coaches took on each athlete, as well as video of the session. He noted that he would be determining his roster in “about a week or two.”
While many of the athletes came from as far away as Honolulu and Harrisburg, Pa., several of the Reno-based contenders also impressed. “B” Niimi, 33, got a long look, continuing to be called late into the lightweight division drills, and was excited for the chance to test his mettle against top competition. “This was a great opportunity to come out and train with some of the top fighters in the world,” he noted. “It was a fun thing to do.”
Shamrock met with athletes at each weight class, first giving a synopsis of how the tryout would be conducted, then emphasizing the importance he placed on teamwork and always working hard in determining the best candidates for him. That was not lost on veteran MMA athletes like John Gunderson, 27, of Medford, Ore., or relative newcomers to the sport like Herbert Goodman, 29, of Green Bay, Wis., a former running back for the NFL’s Packers.
“Training under Ken Shamrock was exceptional because he is one of the icons of this sport,” said Gunderson. “The training was stern and he definitely wanted us to work hard. I think that’s what attracted so many elite guys to an event like this.”
Goodman concurred. “[Shamrock] brings so much experience, he instills such confidence, you know he can mold you into the kind of fighter he wants, and that it will bring out the best in you.”
Shamrock will select five starters and three alternates to complete the Lions squad. He indicated that spots will be contested each year at similar tryouts, with those surviving the tryouts going up against the incumbent Lions for spots on the team the following year.
Shamrock’s Lions, competing for the first time as one of 12 IFL teams competing in the 2007 season, will open on January 19 at the ORACLE Arena in Oakland, Calif., with a match against his brother Frank Shamrock’s Razorclaws, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Each IFL team will compete in three matches during the regular season (January through June); the four with the best records advancing to the postseason (August, September).