Journey Of A Legend

MMA_king-of-pancraseUntil the age of 11, Frank lived with his mother, stepfather, two sisters and brother. But it was a troubled family. Frank left at age 12, and grew up in a series of foster homes, state homes and institutions. Later, Frank was admitted to the Shamrock Boys Ranch, an adolescent group home for wards of the state. There he met the Ranch founder Bob Shamrock, who encouraged Frank, believed in Frank, and later adopted him. After a series of brushes with the law, at a time when Frank could easily have entered a life of crime or drug addiction, Bob Shamrock urged Frank to join his adoptive brother Ken in the study of martial arts. The decision changed Frank forever, and changed the face of American fighting.

Frank joined Ken’s “Lion’s Den” fight school and began his training in submission fighting in 1994. Ken was already a competitor in UFC and the Japanese fight organization Pancrase, and trained Frank as a Pancrase competitor. Frank made his debut Pancrase appearance in Japan in December, 1994 – winning a huge upset decision victory over Holland’s Bas Rutten. A year later, after several more fights, Frank defeated Japanese champion Minoru Suzuki, and was crowned “King of Pancrase.”

But there was tension between the two brothers. Ken had lost interest in Pancrase, and become increasingly involved in UFC. He wanted Frank to remain in Pancrase, and run his “Lion’s Den.” When Frank insisted he wanted a career of his own, Ken fired him from the “Lion’s Den.” The feud between the two brothers drove a wedge between Frank and his adoptive father. Bob Shamrock took Ken’s side in the disagreement, and banished Frank from the Shamrock family.


Isolated and alone, Frank left Pancrase and began training for his own UFC career. After a humbling defeat against John Lober in 1997, Frank had an awakening, and decided he would train like a champion, fight like a champion and begin winning like a champion; the Shamrock Way. Focusing his training exclusively on MMA techniques, and working closely with kickboxing legend Maurice Smith, Frank dominated his next 12 fights, not losing a single bout for the next decade.

He fought in the RINGS, K-1 and Vale Tudo competitions in Japan, became the UFC’s first Light Heavyweight Champion and the WEC’s first Light Heavyweight Champion, and Strikeforce’s first Middleweight Champion. He fought and dominated fighters like Enson Inoue, Tito Ortiz, Renzo Gracie, Kevin Jackson, and Igor Zinoviev, and beat John Lober in their return engagement. His 21-second knockout against Cesar Gracie in 2006 capped an unprecedented run of victory. Along the way, he would be voted fighter of the year 1997, fighter of the decade for the 1990′s, and be inducted into nearly every contact sports Hall of Fame.

On top of the fight world, Frank retired and took his talents to Hollywood. Over the next several years, he would appear opposite his friend Chuck Norris in episodes of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and in several national TV commercials, as a guest in feature films and television shows, and in various martial arts-themed movies.


Following his brief retirement from fighting, Frank returned MMA. In the highly-anticipated “Return of a Legend,” Frank finished Bryan Pardoe with an armbar submission in under two minutes. His next fight was with Jiu-Jitsu champion Cesar Gracie.

The families of Shamrock and Gracie first met in the UFC 1 when Royce Gracie submitted Ken Shamrock in less than a minute and drew the first line for the families competition for supremacy in the US. Cesar Gracie was a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master whose MMA training school would go on to produce fighters like Nick and Nathan Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. But Gracie had never fought an MMA fight himself, and yet still called out Frank. The match-up was the first-ever MMA event sanctioned by the state of California, and Frank’s first Strikeforce appearance, and is now considered a watershed in the history of American MMA. The fight ended in just 21 seconds, when Frank delivered a knock-out blow from which Gracie could not recover. This event set a north American attendance record of 18,265 tickets sold.

Less than a year later, Frank was in the cage again with another Gracie – Renzo Gracie, Cesar’s cousin and the most experienced and respected Gracie fighter. This highly-anticipated pedigree grudge match, an Elite XC event on Showtime, one of the first MMA fights to be televised on any premium network, ended in confused controversy. Shamrock dominated the entire fight with his pace and striking and Gracie took him to the ground and held on for dear life attempting not one finishing hold. After a five-minute injury time out, Gracie was unable to continue – but he won the fight by decision after the referee ruled Shamrock had delivered two illegal knee kicks to the back of Gracie’s head while both men were on the ground. It was Shamrock’s first loss in over a decade, since he first faced John Lober in Hawaii.

For his return to glory, Frank faced off with veteran Phil Baroni in a combined Elite XC/Strikeforce event on June 22, 2007. After two extremely dramatic rounds, Shamrock was deducted points for a strike to the back of Baroni’s head, Baroni seeming to dominate with a series of powerful strikes – the fight ended with a classic MMA face-down: Baroni, caught in a rear naked choke hold, refused to tap out, and instead was choked unconscious. When he was able to stand, he crossed the cage to give Shamrock his congratulations. With the victory, Shamrock was named Strikeforce’s first Middleweight Champion.

In March, 2008, Frank defended his title against MMA sensation Cung Le. For this highly-touted event – another Elite XC/Strikeforce production, held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Shamrock had promised to fight on his feet against Le, who it was thought did not have sufficient ground game to make the match an even one. Shamrock took a number of blows, but near the end of Round 3 appeared to be finishing Le with a series of brutal punches against the cage. Le recovered, and ended the round with a series of dramatic kicks. One of them broke Shamrock’s arm. He was unable to answer the bell for Round 4, and lost his belt by a TKO decision. After congratulating Le, Frank was rushed to the hospital.

Despite that injury, Shamrock was back in the cage at the HP Pavilion on April 11, 2009, facing off against Cesar Gracie protege Nick Diaz. Shamrock came to the event as the favored fighter, but he also came with a broken rib – injured and sustained during the rigorous training for the Diaz match. The fight went 3:57 into the 2nd round until the judges ruled a TKO in Diaz’ favor.



Frank Shamrock who has always believed in teaching and mentoring opened his first school, Shamrock Martial Arts Academy, in San Jose, and began training students in Shamrock Submission Fighting (SSF) and Shamrock MMA (SMMA). Since 1994 Frank has instructed over 10,000 students in mixed martial arts fighting and coached dozens of world champions. He has trained military personnel, police forces and security companies in personal safety, hand-to-hand combat and submission techniques. He also manages Team Shamrock, his own fight team and offers apprenticeships for amateur fighters and martial students.

In 2006, Shamrock was chosen to coach for the San Jose Razorclaws of the International Fight League (IFL). The IFL was the first professional league for mixed martial arts athletes and broke the PPV mold for MMA, with its events being broadcast on MyNetwork TV in 90+ million homes. The team concept did not catch on and eventually the television show and company went under.

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