by Jeff Cain
Ken Shamrock spoke for the first time since returning home from his Pride 30 loss to Kazushi Sakuraba exclusively to MMAWeekly. Shamrock discussed the fight, it’s controversial ending, and where he goes from here.
MMAWeekly: How are you?
Ken Shamrock: I’m doing good. You know? Just getting over that jet lag trying to get my time frame back.
MMAWeekly: That’s always fun huh?
MMAWeekly: The next week you’re screwed basically.
Shamrock: About two or three O’clock, you hit a wall.
MMAWeekly: Let’s talk about the fight. I think the hardcore fans, I think right now it’s pretty split. Actually it’s probably 60/40 for your favor as far as this fight being stopped too soon. Before we even get into that, lets talk about the fight itself. When the bell rings you’re looking across at Sakuraba. You guys come together. What did you see from Sakuraba early on, and what surprised you about Sakuraba from early on?
Shamrock: Well I tell you, I knew looking across the ring that I wanted to control the ring, so I came across the ring pretty fast. I wanted to get him backing up. And everything was going the way that I wanted it to. I was cutting him off. He was moving. He was doing some crazy stuff here and there trying to back me off. Basically I was moving forward. I was controlling the ring. I was cutting it off. It was getting smaller and smaller for him. I landed a couple of punches here and there. All and all I wasn’t really surprised. I studied him. I knew he can’t come fast with hands. He doesn’t present really much danger other than his submissions, so it really wasn’t much of a surprise. But when he did catch me, I don’t care, you don’t have to be a hard puncher, but if you hit somebody square on the button, you can ding them. I got pretty comfortable in there, pretty confident, and he came with that punch and hit me.
I was moving backward when that punch hit me and basically lost my balance and went down. The thing that kind of bothers me the most was that they have this rule saying when you turn your back the fight is over. There’s also as a defense. You know, to defend yourself especially being a grappler. When you get punched you don’t you don’t stick your face out there and put your hands in front of it and hope the guys doesn’t hit you. I turned my ass toward him, covered my face, and hopefully he jumps on top of me and tries to submit me. Then we’re in a grappling match, and I’m not getting hit.
I turned to defend myself. I didn’t land flat on the mat. I didn’t crumble. My hand was in my face defending it. I used the ropes to my defense by covering one side of my body so he can only attack one part of it. Knowing the history of myself and Sakuraba, I’ve been in some battles. I’ve been hit hard. I’ve been able to recover, Don Frye being one of them. Don Frye threw the punch, I went down. He tried to finish me. I rolled up into a leg lock, broke his ankle…I’ve been punched hard and been able to recover.
MMAWeekly: Bottom line, if you look at the Quinton Jackson and Yokoi fight, Yokoi had plenty of opportunities to come back. And it’s amazing how you see referees judge one fight compared to the other fight. There’s got to be consistency all night. Officiating one match, you’ve got to do the same. If Yokoi’s allowed to take a lot of punishment than the same thing should be afforded to you, a guy that’s been around the sport forever.
Shamrock: I think you have to look at the fight, the magnitude of a fight. If it’s a title fight, or if it’s a fight of this magnitude where it was a necessary win for myself or for Sakuraba. Looking at the history of both of us, Sakuraba’s not a dangerous puncher and I can take a punch and recover. If you look at the people in there, Sakuraba’s not going to damage me. He’s not going to do damage. He’s not a Cro Cop where if a guy does get punched you have to watch fast. With all the elements of the fight, and magnitude of the fight, this fight should have been settled by me and him.
The fans were robbed of a legendary fight. Not only that, Sakuraba was robbed of being able to finish the fight. And I was robbed of being able to recover and continue to fight…It’s an MMA fight. I mean these are not fights that you look at and the guy takes a punch and it’s over, or when a guy extends an arm bar or a leg lock. People used to jump in and stop that way too fast. Then they let them fight out of it and many, many people have been able to go on and win fights because they were able to fight themselves out of an arm bar or out of a rear naked choke or out of a leg lock.
You see that happen so much now where the guys are actually able to fight because people are educated that it’s not necessarily over when you have it fully extended. People tend to fight out of it. Punches are the same way. If a guy gets knocked down you’ve got to let it go. You’ve got to let it go to where he’s getting hit with a lot of unanswered punches where the guy’s not defending himself properly. You have to let it go to a point to where you know it’s over.
MMAWeekly: I agree. It’s a huge fight. You’ve got to let the guys fight and make sure there’s a definitive finish. Were you knocked out? Did he knock you out?
Shamrock: That’s the other thing. I mean I was not knocked out. You know when you get punched and you have that flash and it goes away. It’s like a tenth of a second. That’s what it was. It was just bang, flash, and then when I had that flash I immediately covered so I wouldn’t get hit again. I turned my ass to him to defend myself. It wasn’t like I was avoiding the fight. I was trying to defend myself and get him to take me to the ground and start grappling so I could defend myself from that point. Not one time did the referee look at me, look in my eyes during that whole time to see whether or not I was hurt.
MMAWeekly: Here’s my biggest thing, Ken, with this whole ordeal. You did get hit. You could tell and see that you were a little bit flash knocked out, and you turned your back. The ref stopped it because he’s thinking, now mind you I’m trying to guess what the ref was thinking, that OK. He’s knocked out. Lets stop the fight. Here’s the problem. When you have a guy like Ken Shamrock and Sakuraba fighting each other you have to realize Sakuraba’s main arsenal is a Kimura. So if you get on his back, the fight’s not over…If you give someone your back one of your main offenses is rolling into a knee bar or rolling into an ankle lock. What I don’t understand is why this ref wasn’t educated in the styles that both of you guys use, but if you turn your back you can still recover by rolling into some submission. He immediately stops the fight. He immediately steps in and stops the fight, but it was very strange to me to see. Ken Shamrock can defend himself when someones on his back. Sakuraba can defend himself when someone is on his back. They stopped it, even though your ass was facing Sakuraba, like the fight was completely over. My main argument is why didn’t the ref understand your style of fighting? Why didn’t he allow this to go further because you are able to recover from that sort of position?
Shamrock: Yeah. We wrote a letter of protest. Those are some of the things that are in the letter. Why wasn’t the referee, in this magnitude of a fight, educated on the two fighters in there because if he was that fight would not have been stopped by any means. One of the things we put in the letter was did you think the fight was stopped too fast? And if you didn’t think the fight was stopped too fast, do you think if the tables were turned, if Sakuraba was in the position that I was in and the referee stopped it, do you think the fight would have been stopped too soon then? If you are a Sakuraba fan, and you see Sakuraba’s fights, even the last one, he took more punishment in his last fight than I ever even came close to taking, and in his previous fights. If you say that then that fight was stopped too soon because both fighters have an opportunity to recover from situations, and be able to defend themselves, and be able to move on in the fight. If Sakuraba was in my situation they would have not stopped the fight. They would have given him ample time to recover, would have taken more strikes, and they would have allowed that fight to go on.
MMAWeekly: So bottom line you feel there was a home field advantage in this fight?
Shamrock: I think the referee definitely made a huge mistake on this. As a fan you’re happy, if you’re a Sakuraba fan. Personally if I were a Sakuraba fan, and I saw a fight like that, I’d be disappointed for Sakuraba because 1.) He didn’t really get to finish that fight. And 2.) Being a fan, I’d be pissed. I would be absolutely pissed off that I was robbed of a legendary fight where two fighters were game and willing to fight to see who was going to be the better fighter. And it was taken away, taken out of our hands.”
MMAWeekly: Take me through the end of the fight. Obviously you’re upset. We saw your reaction. You had your hands up like what’s going on? Did the referee say anything to you? Did Sakuraba say anything to you? Did the Pride officials say anything to you?
Shamrock: The referee didn’t say anything but shake his head. I kept asking him why? What are you doing? He just kept shaking his head. I just stood there in disbelief like what did you see? I was just in disbelief. I couldn’t believe they just stopped this fight. It was a huge fight for both of us. They just stopped it man. I was just in disbelief. I went over to Sakuraba’s corner and was like that fight was stopped way too soon. Man that was crazy. You can’t end on this. And I kept looking at Sakuraba saying that’s bull-crap. He looked at me and I said this is bull-crap man. This is not right. And he looked at me and he put up his finger and said OK, one more.
MMAWeekly: Very good. OK.
Shamrock: If you look at the replay on TV, you didn’t see that. You didn’t see that, but that’s what happened. You know, I’ve been in a lot of fights. I’ve been in a lot of tough fights. I’ve been in some situations where I’ve been knocked down and actually dazed actually trying to recover and taken a lot of punishment. I’ve seen Sakuraba take a lot of punishment. I’ve seen Sakuraba avoid fights and stick his head through the ropes. I’ve seen Sakuraba sit on the ropes to avoid getting hit more. The referee step in to break the fight after he’s put his ass through the ropes. I’ve seen a lot of stuff happen. And that same night seen guys get their head stomped in and allowed fights to go and let fighters decide who’s the winner. To have this fight against me and Sakuraba, two guys that have been in this business a very, very long time, to have it taken away from us and allow us to put on a great fight is, oh man, it’s a sin.
MMAWeekly: Where do we go from here? Are they going to give you a rematch? Have they talked about giving you a rematch? Where are we at right now?
Shamrock: I filed a letter of protest which is just to let them know exactly how we feel. And the way the match went for them to look at the tape again and to look at the two fighters that were in the ring and the magnitude of the fight and to look at it honestly from the stand point of if it were Sakuraba who took the punch. Would that fight have been stopped? Look at the history of Sakuraba and his fights. Look at Ken Shamrock and the history of his fights. Look at if from the situation of Sakuraba’s never knocked anyone out. He doesn’t posses the power to really do damage, serious damage to somebody with punches. And look at it from my history with me being able to recover from punches. Take all those things into consideration and evaluate that fight and let us do it again to decide the real winner.
MMAWeekly: Ken, do you feel you will get a rematch?
Shamrock: It’s hard to say man, but I want to think there’s some justice that can be done on this. I’m not blaming Pride. I’m not blaming any prejudice there. I think the referee had my best interest in mind and of course Pride’s best interest when he stopped that fight. But I think that he definitely prematurely stopped the fight knowing the history of the fighters and the magnitude of the fight.
MMAWeekly: I’m not sure if I misheard you. Did you actually file a protest over this fight?
Shamrock: Yes I did. We wrote a letter, and we filed a protest.
MMAWeekly: How long with that process take usually?
Shamrock: It’s going to take a couple of weeks for them to look at it. If they take it serious they’ll have to look at the letter. They’ll have to review the tape, and then they’ll have to have a meeting with the referee and decide. I was never hurt in that fight. I think the tape shows that. The referee never gave me proper, he never really looked at me. He never looked at my eyes, and he never gave me the benefit of the doubt. I think the way the fight was stopped was definitely prematurely wrong, and none of the ways of a ref stopping a fight were followed.
MMAWeekly: So Ken where do we go from here? I mean obviously you want a rematch, but if they do not grant you a rematch do you want to fight again? Will you fight again? What do you think?
Shamrock: Yeah. I want to fight again. It’s kind of a sucky deal. My last two fights that I’ve had, Franklin and this one, there’s been some weird situations. And it eats me up inside because I was definitely prepared for this fight. I was anxious for this fight and had it taken away…It just really sucks. The Rich Franklin fight there was some situations I had in there which were my situations that I had to deal with, but the Sakuraba fight I was game. I was ready to go. Just taken away, so I want to fight again. I don’t want to end like that. I want this rematch.
The fans, I understand them. Even the 40% of them that think the fight was stopped legitimately. They need to please look at who I am, who Sakuraba is, what his strengths are, what my strengths are. And because I went down and turned my back, my ass toward him is not the same situation as someone that doesn’t have the ability to do submissions or roll into a leg lock or be able to, even if he grabs me to go into a Kimura or to reverse him like I did to Don Frye when Don Frye jumped on me. I had the ability, and I had my mind about me that I could have defended myself very easily if Sakuraba would have jumped on me or would have even come close enough to land effective punches. I would have been able to defend myself because I am a submission fighter, and I have experience.
MMAWeekly: Can you imagine if they stopped that fight with Frye early? We would have never seen the great comeback. The ref at that time knew exactly what those guys could do and how to gauge the fight. It kind of seemed like, in this one, no one was really sure what these guys could do. You’ve got to let these fights go sometimes. You’ve got to allow them to go until someone either taps out or you see that he’s completely gone.
Shamrock: If you watch the fight and you see it, even fans that think and know when a fighter gets punched, and he’s been hit really good, right on the chin, and he’s knocked out. The fighter does not back up and fall to his knees and cover. He flops out. He either lands on his back, or he drops face down or just crumbles. Nowhere in that whole situation, that whole scenario did I just crumble to the mat and just flop down like a rag doll.
MMAWeekly: Ken, we appreciate the time. I think the fans want to see a rematch. I want to see a rematch. I think it’s one of those things where everyone’s going to speak loudly. I know they’ve got a big show New Year’s Eve. What a better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than getting a rematch for you?
Shamrock: Well, I just want to say to the fans, the ones that are on my site, I appreciate the support. The ones that are against me, I understand, but look at the fight. Give it a true look at it and understand who the two fighters are and the magnitude of the fight, and what you want to see as a Sakuraba fan. Do you want to see Sakuraba win like that? I mean do you really want to see it go to a finish?