by MMAWeekly Radio & Jeff Cain
On October 23rd, at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, cultures collide. Two Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) legends from opposite sides of the world will enter the Pride ring to do battle. ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ takes on ‘The Gracie Hunter.’ Ken Shamrock left for Japan Tuesday, but before he did he spoke with MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio about his Pride 30 match up against Kazushi Sakuraba.
Ken Shamrock may have started his MMA career in Japan, but he is very much an American fighting legend. Kazushi Sakuraba is nothing short of a Japanese icon. Not so long ago this could have been billed as the biggest fight in MMA history. “It’s going to be exciting man. I get to go to Japan, and go into his backyard, and fight their hero,” Shamrock told MMAWeekly.
Shamrock said it best, he’s going into Sakuraba’s “backyard.” How much is Ken concerned about home field advantage? He said, “Obviously Sakuraba’s their hero over there, so I’ve got to stay out of danger. I can’t put myself in a situation where the referee might step in and call it. I’ve got to always be on top, always be in a dominate position. And that way there’s no chance of them stopping it.”
This is an interesting match up. Both are crafty veterans in the twilight of their careers presented with the opportunity to add another marquee name to their already legendary MMA resumes. Discussing his opponent, Ken commented, “I think you’ve just got to be on your toes with Sak…Sakuraba’s a crafty character. He’s fought a lot of bigger guys than him. He’s very slick. I’m definitely not going to go in there and think I’m going to mull over him. I’m going to go in there an give him a lot of respect, but at the same time don’t give him too much.”
Questioned about what advantages he has going into this fight, Ken replied, “I believe that Sakuraba does a lot things good. I think I can attack those things that he does well and keep him from doing those. At the same time, Sakuraba sometimes gets very impatient on his stand up. I think I could either catch him standing up, or on the ground when he goes to do that drop-shoot thing that he does. Getting on top is going to be a big advantage for me.”
Recently Shamrock made wholesale changes to his training partners and location. Ken divulged, “A lot of things have changed for me. I moved to Susanville, back were I grew up at. I opened a dojo here. I had some tryouts. I’ve got some young fighters. I’ve got the gym up and going here. And we’re about 4700 feet up, so the elevation and I have a permanent place to train all the time. It’s more consistent for me. I don’t have to travel. I don’t have to go to different gyms. I was going to two different gyms last time. This time I’m back down to basics. I’ve got my own facility going, got some fresh faces in there. I’ve got the elevation. A lot of things are working in my favor.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re Ken Shamrock, Kazushi Sakuraba, Randy Couture, Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, or Mike Tyson, the reoccurring question every aging fighter gets asked is when will age finally catch up to them? Shamrock spoke honestly about getting older in the fight game. He said, “Every time you get asked that question it’s a fair question. I know some people may get upset at it, but it’s a fair question. And age does matter. It matters in a sense of training. It matter in a sense of injuries because as you get older your body does not heal as fast, so you can’t put in five hard days. If you put in five hard days you’re burnt for the next week. It becomes more of being smart and training smart. And learning your body each time because things are going to happen very fast for you.”
Ken continued, “If you get a sore muscle, when you’re younger, you kind of ignore it and go on. As you get older that thing is just going to get worse because it’s not going to heal as fast. There’s a lot of things you have to pay attention to when you get older. As far as when you step in the ring and fight, if you’re training smart and doing everything right, you’re going to lose a step or two, but your experience should take over from there.”
Ken Shamrock is a UFC Hall of Famer who, as stated before, began his MMA career in Japan. Even Ken admits he’s not getting any younger. When will ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ step away from competition? Ken was asked where he’d like to end his career, in America or Japan? He responded, “I haven’t really even thought about that man. I’m kind of just taking the fights as they come. I’m at a point now where I’m not looking to be the world champion. If it comes that way then fine, but I’m more or less taking fights that are interesting to me, and ones that I want to fight. Sakuraba was brought up. I said that’s a great fight. It’s good for the fans. It’s good for me, so I took that fight. I’ll fight this fight and then I’ll see where I’m at.”
Ken’s taking his career one fight at a time. He’s not looking any further in the future than Sakuraba. His game plan going in is the same game plan he usually has heading into a match. He said, “I’m not thinking about the next fight. I’m thinking about this fight. As far as how I’m going to win this fight, that would depend on Sakuraba because I’m not going to force any situation. I’m going to go out there and take advantage of a situation. I will press the fight, and whatever is there I will take.”
It’s no secret both Shamrock and Sakuraba are past their primes, but that doesn’t take away from the historic value of this fight. It’s a throw back to a past era. It’s MMA’s version of Superman vs. Godzilla.