by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Things can change quickly in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The week before the UFC 56: ‘Full Force’ announcement that Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz would be ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season three coaches, Ken was aggressively pursuing a rematch with Kazushi Sakuraba in Pride and had written off any chance of participating in the Spike TV reality show.
“It’s been pretty exciting, and at the same time it kind of took me off guard a little bit.” Shamrock said as he spoke with MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio about what unfolded in the days leading up to UFC 56 that made it possible for he and Ortiz to land the high profile coaching positions.
The deal came together only days before the UFC 56 pay-per-view broadcast. What changed from just a week before? Shamrock said, “Well one, Dana [White] actually called me and asked me to be on the show. Prior to that, Dana never called me. Nobody ever said anything to me about the show. As far as I knew they were moving in a different direction, and I was moving in a different direction.”
Discussing the contents of the conversations with UFC president, Dana White, Shamrock divulged, “Dana gave me a call and said, hey, how would you like to come back to the UFC? And I was like sure. What do you got? I thought he had somebody that he wanted me to fight or something. He goes well, how would you like to be a coach on the reality show? And I said well, it was offered to me the first season, but I wasn’t able to do it. I said, it sounds good, but you have to explain what are we doing here. I’m not just going to show up. He goes, you wouldn’t believe who I’ve got for the other coach. Immediately I’m thinking, well I know Royce Gracie is out of the question, and I know Tito Ortiz is out of the question. He goes, nope, Tito Ortiz. And I was like OK man, sign me up. I’m there.”
Ken continued, “At first I was like no, not really. He goes, no, we’ve got Tito. I was like how did you get Tito? He goes, we just signed him. I said, well if you’ve got Tito, I’m thinking, well if you’ve got Tito then I’m there.”
Shamrock and Ortiz have a long history. The feud between Tito and the Ken Shamrock run ‘Lion’s Den’ dates back to UFC 13: ‘The Ultimate Force’ where Ortiz lost to the Ken Shamrock trained Guy Mezger. Ortiz went on to defeat the ‘Lion’s Den’ fighter Jerry Bolander at UFC 18: ‘Road to the Heavyweight Title,’ and then won a rematch with Mezger at UFC 19; ‘Young Guns’ where he paraded around after the bout with a t-shirt that said, “Gay Mezger is my Bitch,” taunting Mezger’s corner including Ken Shamrock.
It’s no secret that Shamrock and Ortiz don’t like each other. They’ve exchanged words in and out of the octagon on numerous occasions. No one seems to be able to get under Ken’s skin like Ortiz has been able to in the past. Asked if he hates Tito Ortiz, Ken replied, “Hate is a strong word, and I am a very religious person, so I know hate is a bad thing, but I do hate what he does very much. Him as a person, I’ve never really got to know him. I know people that do know of him, and they basically all said that Tito’s a good guy, but I don’t see it. I just don’t see it.”
The third season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ will begin with pre-existing drama between Shamrock and Ortiz. The purpose of the reality was to build up unknown fighters to be UFC competitors. Has that changed? Is Ken concerned at all about what might ignite between he and Ortiz on national television?
Ken said, “I am a little concerned with it, but at the same time, I’m going to go in there and do the best job I can for these fighters because this is a great opportunity for these guys to really shine, and I do not by any means want to take anything away from these guys. I don’t even want to try to get in the way of their opportunity. This is big time for them. It’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. I do not want to be the one that screws it up for them, but at the same time, I’m not going to stand in the corner and be punked out or be pushed around. I will come out throwing, and as much as I want to make sure this is all about the Ultimate Fighters, and these guys get a great opportunity, at the same time I’ve worked way, way too long in my career and I’m the type of person that’s not going to stand around and let someone be disrespectful, or try and punk me out, or even punk people out that I’m trying to work with.”
At the conclusion of the next season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ Ken Shamrock will get his long awaited rematch with Tito Ortiz. Ken was asked what he’ll do different this time around to make sure he comes away with the win. He answered, “I think it’s the same thing that I’ve been working on since I had the ACL replacement and I had the shoulder replacement. It’s just getting healthy, and then when I get healthy, it’s getting into the outstanding conditioning. I was in very, very good shape for the Sakuraba fight. I really believe that that’s where I was peaking is right there, and it got stolen out from under me. I really believed everything was there. If I come in the same way that I came in for the Sakuraba fight, and leave out the technical stuff. You know? And just go out there and turn this into a damn street fight I will beat Tito Ortiz.”
Ken continued, “I’m an aggressive person. I’ve been probably fighting on the streets since I was ten years old. That was part of my ability when I didn’t have all the problems that I had was that I was an aggressive fighter. I’ve kind of steered away from that a little bit because of some of the injuries that I’ve had, trying to protect them and still get the win. When I fight Tito Ortiz, I ain’t worrying about anything. I’m healthy. I’m going to get in good shape so that I can go three hard rounds throwing nothing but hands, feet, taking him down, smashing him with elbows, and then going for submissions. I will be very, very focused on this fight, and I will be in very good conditioning.”
Shamrock’s deal with the UFC is for two fights with one of them being Tito Ortiz, but who else would Ken like to fight after his rematch with ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy?’ Ken commented, “It’s all been about Tito for the past four of five years…It’s hard to even think past that. I haven’t thought about it.”
Season three of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ will be interesting with Ortiz and Shamrock as opposing coaches, that much can be guaranteed. Ken gets his rematch with Ortiz, and Tito is back in the UFC. Stealing a line from Tito Ortiz, to see how it all unfolds we’ll just have to “stay tuned.”