by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Frank Shamrock sat down with MMAWeekly leading up to his Strike Force main event bout against ‘The New York Badass’ Phil Baroni, fielding questions about his training, his career, and his future, win, lose or draw.

MMAWeekly: You fought on the first Strike Force card and the first EliteXC card, how much of a role did you play in getting the two organizations together?

Frank Shamrock: I’d like to think I had a pretty big role in it [laughs], but they both have a common goal and that’s to see the sport succeed, so it wasn’t all that hard.

MMAWeekly: There are a lot of newer fans that may not have seen you in your hay-day. I tell people the sport truly became mixed martial arts when you came on the scene. How has the sport changed since 2000 when you walked away as world champion?

Shamrock: Of course it’s become a lot more mainstream. The athletes’ techniques are a lot better. It’s a lot faster in some ways, and a little bit slower in others. All and all the sport has gone through a pretty cool metamorphosis by way of the art of fighting. The striking has grown slowly, but the grappling has certainly grown quickly.

MMAWeekly: How has training gone for this fight?

Shamrock: It’s gone great. I started about eight weeks out. I had a great conditioning phase. My striking and grappling, times have been really tough but really fun. Having the IFL boys there and ready has been a Godsend, which I really, really enjoyed. It’s been good.

MMAWeekly: It has been a long time since you fought a striker that poses the threat of Phil Baroni. Have you been doing anything specifically to train for him and what he brings to the table?

Shamrock: Not really. Striking has been what I’ve been working on for the past five, six, seven years anyways, so not really. He’s a power puncher, but he’s not that technical of a stand up guy. I’m business as usual. I’ve got Maurice Smith with me, and he’s one of the best strikers in the world, so I feel confident.

MMAWeekly: Revisiting the Renzo Gracie fight for just a minute, did that disqualification loss get you more focused and more determined for this fight?

Shamrock: Yea, it did, but it upset me more than anything. I mean, I’m a guy of the rules, a student of the game, and to lose like that, it was just, I was mad at myself.

MMAWeekly: The last time you were on a Strike Force card, at the time, you guys set the North American MMA attendance record. Is this the biggest fight you’ve had since you left the UFC?

Shamrock: I think probably skill wise and danger wise, it probably is. He definitely poses a threat. He’s got a good puncher’s chance. He’s strong, but I don’t know. The UFC was many years ago, and a different type of game. I think the game has evolved, and I’ve evolved with it, so we’ll see.

MMAWeekly: When you walked away, you were on top of your game. You were probably the most popular and well-known mixed martial artist in the world. Most people don’t walk away during that time. Recapping, what exactly were the reasons why you chose to do that?

Shamrock: Well, there were two big reasons. The first one was I got into fighting because I wanted to be the best, and I wanted to fight the best, and I wanted to learn the arts. I really felt like after fighting Tito [Ortiz] I was the best, and it wasn’t really doing all that much for me. The second reason was the sport wasn’t going anywhere. I just didn’t want to be in a sport that I believed in heart and soul, and I didn’t think my best work was going to be done in the ring, in the cage, in whatever. I felt like my contribution to the sport after that point would be best done outside.

MMAWeekly: Now fast-forward to your decision to comeback. Did you need the money, or had the sport come to a point where it kind of made it’s way back to your terms?

Shamrock: There were two things that happened: The sport kind of caught up to me by way of popularity and skill, and I realized that I was getting tired of working outside the sport and working hard. With the popularity of it, I felt the biggest contribution I could make now is to be in the ring, and to be myself, and fighting for what I believe in, and spreading the word of martial arts in mixed martial arts. Unfortunately I think a lot of, with the popularity of the sport, and the mainstream eyeballs on the sport that martial arts has kind of gone out of mixed martial arts. Mixed martial arts has become it’s own thing. There’s very little martial arts anymore, and I’d like to bring that back, and refocus people on why it’s important that we’re doing what we’re doing.

MMAWeekly: You’ve said in several interviews in the past that you’re back for good; you’re a full-time fighter now. Are you under a multi-fight contract?

Shamrock: I have a multi-fight contract, and I have most of my fights planned through 2009.

MMAWeekly: Really?

Shamrock: Yea. I’m going to reevaluate myself in 2009, and I’m back in it full-time. I’ve been blessed. I don’t need the money. I’m in a very comfortable position. I’ve got a number of businesses. I spent my time outside the sport taking care of my family and their wellbeing and everything. This is the first and only time in my life where I get to do it just for the love of doing it again, and I think there is nothing stronger.

MMAWeekly: You said you have your fights lined out, does that mean opponents as well?

Shamrock: I have some of the opponents lined out, but times and terms I know what I’m doing. I know where I’m going, and I’m going to sit down at the end of 2009 and decide if I want to do more, or if that’s it, or what my plan is.

MMAWeekly: In your opinion, are you the same fighter you used to be?

Shamrock: Honestly, I don’t know. I feel better than I ever have mentally and physically. Technically I’m a more evolved fighter. Mentally, psychologically I’m a more evolved fighter, but I’m also 35 years old. I don’t know how that will play with the speed and youth of our sport. To me, I think it will show in the ring. It will show in the cage, and everybody can make their own decisions after that.

MMAWeekly: You’re a smart guy. You understand the risks of getting in the ring with anyone. You said you were back full-time. Let’s just say, hypothetically, you do lose this fight, are you still going to fight, or would you reevaluate after that? Are you in it for the long haul regardless of the short-term results?

Shamrock: I’m here to fight. You win some; you lose some. Honestly, I can’t expect to win every fight at my age, although I believe I will. The odds are against me. Time is against me, but it’s fighting. Fighting is about life. It’s about learning. It’s about figuring out who you are and what you do, and if it works for you. Fighting has been and is some of the happiest times of my life, and I’m blessed man. I get to experience it again. Most people don’t get a second run.

MMAWeekly: Do you have anything left to prove in the sport other than maybe to yourself?

Shamrock: No. I’ve got nothing left to prove, and I’ve got nothing even to myself. I mean, fighting is a little bit of who I am, to live the life style, to have the comradery and the trainers and my friends, to get up every morning and just work out, that’s a dream come true. For me, I didn’t think that, I thought that my time was over, and maybe it is by way of being the best of the best of the best. But for me, it’s about being the best person I can be, being the best teacher, being the best fighter, being the best trainer, and if all those come together and I’m victorious than that’s even better.

MMAWeekly: If you beat Phil Baroni, you’re on the verge of being top ten again. Is that a goal of yours? Would you like to be in the top ten and face some of those guys?

Shamrock: I’d like to be the best I can be. If that means fighting top ten guys, there it is. Our sport has changed. It’s not about the best fighters anymore. It’s about the best marketed people on television. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I’m happy doing what I’m doing.

MMAWeekly: You’re going to be back in front of you hometown crowd again, and probably 18,000 strong. How cool is that going to be?

Shamrock: I love San Jose, and I love the energy that the people bring. There’s nothing that is stronger than walking out there and having 18,000 people cheer for you, and having them be in your community. Nothing charges you more or gives you more power. I absolutely love it. San Jose is a wonderful martial arts town and all very supportive and all very respectful. They’ll give me strength. They’ll give me strength to win this fight.

MMAWeekly: You have quite a loyal following over at FrankShamrock.com. Do you have anything you’d like to say to your particular hardcore fans?

Shamrock: I just want to say thanks for being good martial artists. FrankShamrock.com and the forum is a place you can go to get the straight scoop, to talk about martial arts and mixed martial arts. They’re not the usual Internet warriors, and trolls. They’re just good martial artists who are living their life. They come together for something positive. I just want to thank them for all of their support. They all do it because they love the art, and that’s why I do it.

MMAWeekly: Do you have any sponsors that you would like to thank?

Shamrock: No. I thank them plenty. I could do anything that I want. I don’t fight for the UFC. I think the future of this sport is having real stars, and those stars being able to express themselves, and be themselves, and not be what the company thinks they should be.

MMAWeekly: What can we expect to see when you and Phil Baroni happen this weekend?

Shamrock: I’m going to fight a smart fight, of course, win the game of striking. I think Phil is going to try to make it a stand up brawl and a brawling game. I’ve fought a lot of brawlers in my time. It works perfectly with what I’m doing. I think we’re going to do a little stand up, a little ground, and hopefully I’ll catch him early, and if not, he’ll be in for a long night.