Ken Shamrock, the newly named coach of International Fight League’s “Lions,” put over the promotion’s team approach to MMA as an important step in taking the sport beyond the height it reached via UFC’s recent success.
“Individual fighting has gone as high as it could go,” Shamrock told reporters in a conference call Thursday, adding that the team concept is what will take the sport to the next level.
And it was the concept, according to Shamrock, that elicited his interest in signing on as a coach.
“When [the IFL] was first was brought up I thought it was a brilliant idea,” said Shamrock. “It’s an avenue for coaches who were ex-fighters [and] helped develop MMA to help coach young athletes or fighters; to pass on all the things we’ve learned over the years.”
Shamrock also praised the camaraderie element of team-based fighting: “Not only do you have four or five guys training with you, [but] those guys [also] fight with you on the same card. [You are all] able to celebrate or be disappointed at the same time.”
But those hoping Shamrockâ<80>“or CEO Gareb Shamus, who also participated in the callâ<80>“would go on a rant claiming the IFL’s superiority over UFC were mistaken. Both stressed the differences between the two promotions, arguing that the IFL puts another spin on mixed martial arts that can coexist with UFC.
“Any competition is good. I think it’s great for this sport; it’s great for the fans to be able to see some competition. [But], I see the IFL as an event that stands on its own,” said Shamrock.
“We don’t have any animosity towards the UFC – we have respect for them putting the sport on the map,” added Shamus. “We want to do the same thing, only we want to do it differently.”
The idea of Shamrock coaching a team, in the wake of his negative portrayal in that role on “The Ultimate Fighter,” might seem surprising to some fans. But Shamrock is confident that true MMA fans know he’s qualified to be an effective coach; he believes fighters will seize the opportunity to be fight on his team.
“I don’t think it’s going to deter the hardcore MMA fans knowing who Ken Shamrock is – they’re saying that [the negative portrayal on TUF] is bogus, that’s not Ken. I can’t control what other people think, but I can control what I do,” he said, in defense of his ability to coach. “Back in the day, the Lion’s Den was the team to beat. I want to train the Lions to where we’re the team to beat.”
Moreover, Shamrock added that coaching is not merely about teaching fighters new skills, so the fact that he’s no longer a top force in MMA need not exist as a concern.
“What a coach does is we find the skills that they already have and we put them in great shape and good conditioning – mentally ready to go in and fight,” he clarified.
Although Shamrock has been a force in mixed martial arts since the UFC’s debut in America, to new fans, Shamrock is best known for his blockbuster feud with Tito Ortiz. The feud helped Shamrock become part of the most-viewed mixed martial arts event in American history this past October, but he’s glad he was able to bury the hatchet on that Spike TV telecast.
“I had to let it go,” said Shamrock. “I have to move on and do what Ken Shamrock is going to do next.”
Shamrock, who agreed that Tito did not appear especially sincere in shaking hands after their most recent fight, doesn’t blame the fighter, arguing that as a fighter at the top of the game, Ortiz understandably has no mercyâ<80>“”you just want to beat people up and move onto the next one.”
“The World’s Most Dangerous Man” stressed that his only present focus is succeeding as an IFL coach. But, despite acknowledging that his fight with Ortiz would probably be his last fight, he refused to formally declare his retirement.
“I don’t plan on fighting again, but I’m not saying anything about my retirement. There are a lot of things that can [happen] between now and [a period down the road],” said Shamrock, adding, “I want to focus on the team…I can’t go into this thing worried about what I’m going to do in the future.”
Although Shamrock refused to deny interest in ever returning to WWE, he noted that he had not been contacted to return and reports of WWE expressing interest were nothing more than rumors.
Plus, it is the MMA career that is most dear to Shamrock’s heart.
He said, “I’ve been in more big fights than anybody in the history of MMA. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been really great. I’m satisfied. The next stage of my life has to start. That stage is going to be training people and getting the Lions in a position where they can win it.”