Bellator 149: "Shamrock vs. Gracie 3" will come to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 19, 2016. As you can already surmise from the name, the main event will be a trilogy fight between mixed martial arts (MMA) legends Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie.
To say these two men know each other very, very well would be a terrible understatement. In fact, their history goes back to the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) in 1993, where Gracie got the best of Shamrock in less than one minute via rear-naked choke.
UFC 5 on April 7, 1995, was Shamrock's chance to even the score, but in the days before five-minute rounds this fight went an astonishing 36 minutes without either man finishing or submitting the other, ultimately being ruled a draw.
Their trilogy match this Friday night is their best -- and likely last -- chance to decide who is the better man. Shamrock will turn 52 before the fight takes place, while Gracie turned 49 in Dec. 2015.
Indeed, it's now or never.
Shamrock recently sat down with MMAmania.com about his trilogy fight with Gracie and once again finding himself in the main event of a Bellator MMA card. And he couldn't be happier about being in the spotlight again.
"The reason why it feels good is because one I feel great -- I feel I've made tremendous progress from being in the ring last time, knocking off some ring rust. Two, with my opponent, sometimes you go into some of these fights where you're fighting somebody that's from your time, and one guy looks great and the other guy just doesn't look good at all. This is different. You've got two guys who started the sport who helped build sport to where it's at today who are both in very great shape, both have very good skills, and have the opportunity to bring it."
At "Kimbo vs. Shamrock" in St. Louis last year, Shamrock seemed to have a potential first round submission until Kimbo refused to submit and got up swinging. This led some people to cry "sports entertainment," but Shamrock has his own explanation of what happened.
"You know what? I get it. I really do. For me when the fight happened it was almost like I was just going, 'That didn't happen. That just did not happen.' I pictured how the fight would go and it went exactly as I thought. We'd swing, we'd do a few things here and there, I'd get him on the ground, he'd roll to his belly, I'd throw the hooks in to flatten him out, I'd choke him and he'd tap -- the fight would be over -- and that's exactly what happened! The problem was that the fight didn't get stopped, so that was my fault because I eased up! It doesn't matter what anybody does until the referee steps in and stops it."
Now that the aforementioned "ring rust" has been knocked off, Shamrock vows that he won't make the mistake of letting up on a submission attempt again. And certainly not with a dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist like Gracie.
"If I get in that situation, and by chance he happens to get his chin down or I miss the choke and I've still got his back, I'm going to raise up and just start raining punches. That's what I should have done in the Kimbo fight. I should have just raised up, started raining punches, and let John step in and stop it ... and I didn't do that."
Shamrock had a five-year layoff between his fights with Mike Bourke and Kimbo Slice, but for Gracie the time between opponents is longer still, having last faced Kazushi Sakuraba in 2007. Shamrock opines on how ready Gracie will be.
"He's been doing a lot of seminars, which as we all know that's not a fight, so it will be interesting. It's going to be interesting to see what kind of strategy that he comes out with, and it's going to be interesting to see where he's going to lapse in his ability to be able to defend the things that I'm going to bring at him. We're going to find out early on in the fight where he's at. I think there's gonna be a really clear, clear message at least for me when I go after him in the fight. I'm going to know exactly within a minute to two minutes on where I'm going to be with him."
Whether he wins or loses in Houston on Feb. 19, 2016, Shamrock never takes the moment or his fans for granted.
"It goes all the way back to what my father told me one time when he told me, 'You know, this is the first time that somebody's going to see you. When you respond to a fan who may interrupt your dinner, or interrupt you with your wife somewhere, or your kid somewhere like Disney park, and some fan comes up to you or a bunch of fans come up to you and they're excited, and you blow 'em off because you're in your private time -- if you do it enough times they're going to tell a friend, then they're gonna tell someone, pretty soon it's going to get big -- and then people are going to think that you're rude. So make sure you treat everybody like it's the first time they've met you, and treat them with respect.' So I've done that."
In fact, Shamrock believes the response he received in St. Louis in June 2015 was karma.
"I felt at that moment when I walked into the arena and I got this huge pop, like that was a payoff for the way that the fans have responded to me and I have responded to the fans over the years. I'm very appreciative of that, and it definitely doesn't go unnoticed with me. I'm truly truly blessed."
Only time will tell if he'll also be blessed with a win in the Bellator cage, but fans will know soon enough what the outcome of the Shamrock vs. Gracie trilogy will be in just a few days.
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.