Ken Shamrock file photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
SYDNEY, Australia -- No chair-kicking. No "living death.” This isn't your father's Ken Shamrock.
On Thursday afternoon, media convened at the Citigate Central Hotel in Sydney to meet the cast -- and more appropriately, characters -- central to Sunday's second installment of Impact FC at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Front and center before his bout with Pedro Rizzo was a mellowed "World's Most Dangerous Man.”
Though the early portions of the presser focused on prosaic characterizations of a Shamrock-Rizzo bout -- "Is this a striker-versus grappler match?" and the like -- the most revealing moments came when Shamrock discussed his newly found faith.
Shamrock is in the process of filming a Christian documentary about his life. A former foster child, Shamrock told a story about a group home he visited in Puerto Rico before facing Kimo Leopoldo at UFC 8 in 1996: children slept in a tractor trailer lined with beds, playing basketball with a milk crate tethered to a pole in the dirt. Shamrock said that memories of that trip led him to become more deeply involved with social work, and more recently, Christian causes.
"Wonderlust Productions, the company making the film with me, have made some really, really great films," says Shamrock. "They're really popular in our world."
"When you say 'our world,’ do you mean the world of born-again Christianity?" I ask.
"Yes sir," Shamrock nods confidently. He has long been portrayed as an angry, volatile has-been, but the 46-year-old's jollity was certainly at odds with that characterization.
"I don't really want to get into a debate about it. I'm not going to force anyone into what I believe," he continues.
Shamrock is acutely aware of how people perceive him, and especially how people might perceive a 46-year-old former MMA superstar touting religiosity. Nonetheless, he is invigorated: during his barrage of media appearances over the last five days, Shamrock has signed most autographs with "God bless."
What inspires his opponent Pedro Rizzo is much simpler.
"I dunno. I just wake up and I have nothing else to do," Rizzo laughs when he's asked why he continues to fight after a nearly 14-year MMA career. "All my life, I've been going to the gym, getting ready to compete. I don't know what I'll do when I can't do that any more."
The only time Shamrock seems to exhibit the kind of grave rage he's usually associated with comes when he discusses the promotional complexion of the sport.
"If we allow one company to control this industry, the fighters are going to suffer, the fans are going to suffer," says Shamrock, suddenly ranting with no provocation.
"Let's have some competition out there so we have a say, so fans get higher quality fights. Because right now, you're not getting good fights," he claims.
Shamrock’s voice gets louder and louder as he speaks, until it seems like he realizes the demon is slipping out and he forces it back inside, softening his tone as he finishes speaking.
The concerns for the rest of the fighters are far more secular. Co-headlining welterweights Paul Daley and Daniel Acacio both complain about fighting in Australia during the winter. From behind a pair of oversized black sunglasses, Daley's nonchalance is turned up to 11.
"Paul, it's been two months since the sucker punch incident with Josh Koscheck in Montreal," I say, breaking the ice. "I'm sure you regret what you did. However, do you think you truly did a terrible thing, or do you think you were made an example of by the UFC?"
"For me, the whole incident has become a bit insignificant," Daley shrugs. "Before I got to the UFC, I was doing just fine. My name was out there; I was fighting top guys. Everyone's goal is to be with the UFC, and I feel like I did myself justice. I made a mistake, but there's still paychecks out there."
"Dana White said you would never fight in the UFC again. Do you believe him?" I ask, teetering on "Gotcha!" journalism.
"Dana is a volatile character," Daley smirks. "I think when he said that, he did really mean it. But, I know Dana likes money, and I'm going to keep bringing in fans. Somewhere down the line, he might want me back."
Middleweight Denis Kang, though obviously disinterested, is thoughtful in his responses and speaks at length about the ankle injury that hampered him before his bout with Alan Belcher, and the visa issues that kept him from training at American Top Team recently. However, his opponent, the notoriously eccentric Paulo Filho -- clad in a beige Venum shirt instead of his usual sleeveless flannel -- gives terse, bizarre answers to questions.
Twice Filho responds to questions after Kang, simply mumbling, "I agree." When asked by fighter-stroke-commentator Elvis Sinosic what he did to train specifically for Kang, Filho offers, "I trained for him, specifically."
"When are we eating?" Kang then asks promoter Tom Huggins.
"I can't eat, so I don't really care," answers Glover Teixeira.
Exchanges like this are the backbone of Impact FC press conferences.
The press conference drags. Teixeira explains his visa situation, saying that he may have to wait up to 27 months for his green card. Former TUF cast member Jeremy May, sporting a quasi-Clay Guida mop, discusses the orphanage he and his father have opened, despite the fact May now looks like a cast member from “Jackass.” K-1 convert Peter Graham says that it's normally his M.O. to talk trash, but because opponent Jim York's father is hospitalized after having a stroke, he's opted to refrain.
Pens click, cell phones ring, and conversations in Portuguese create a symphony.
Suddenly, something pierces my chest. Denis Kang has hurled a paper airplane made from an Impact FC flier at me.
"It's a fighter plane," Kang says. I can't tell if he's intentionally making a pun or not.
Up on the dais, Peter Graham cuts through all the shenanigans and puts things in proper perspective.
"I just want to see real cool matchups, and people beat the fuck out of each other," he says.
My thought exactly. So why'd we all have to sit here for 90 minutes?