Ken Shamrock has long desired another fight with Royce Gracie. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It’s been more than 20 years since Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie last squared off in mixed martial arts competition, but Shamrock’s most obvious advantage remains the same as it did back then.
That, of course, would be size, as Shamrock will likely weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of the 205 pounds when he meets the Brazilian in the headliner of Bellator 149 in Houston on Feb. 19. Gracie, meanwhile, recently told Sherdog.com that he will tip the scales at around 180 pounds, approximately his same fighting weight for the past two decades.
During the UFC’s formative years, Gracie confounded much larger foes with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, back when the grappling art was little more than a curiosity in MMA. Shamrock was one of Gracie’s most prominent victims, tapping out to a rear-naked choke in just 54 seconds at UFC 1. Their second meeting at UFC 5 was a 36-minute stalemate.
“The World’s Most Dangerous Man” wants to make it clear that in the sport’s current era, Gracie won’t be able to pull a fast one as easily as he did back then.
“A good big guy is gonna beat a good little guy every time, all skills being the same. That’s why as the sport has evolved,” Shamrock told Sherdog.com. “We’ve seen weight classes because we’ve realized....that David and Goliath is just not possible anymore. Everybody is skilled. I thnk that’s the biggest difference that Royce is gonna see, is that the skill level and the strength is gonna play a factor.”
Shamrock initially asked Bellator President Scott Coker about facing Gracie a year ago. Although much time has passed since the two men last fought, Shamrock has long desired to add another chapter to their rivalry.
“Whenver you talk about the history of MMA, there’s always that thing where it shows me being choked,” Shamrock said. “It just gets under my skin because I know how it was all set up. For instance, they took my shoes away the day of the fight. It was supposed to be no holds barred with no time limit, but then they take my shoes away. I’d never not worn shoes before.
“So naturally on canvas, never not wearing shoes before is like being on ice. I remember thinking when I got choked with the gi, I remember looking at the referee just bewildered. Like, he just choked me with a gi because they took my shoes away. How was that fair?”
That said, Shamrock would like to see Gracie wear his trademark gi in their third meeting.
“I think it’d be a shame if he didn’t,” he said. “You want to see a fight that’s balanced and that shows the skill level and skill set of Royce Gracie at his best, then he has to wear the gi.”
While Gracie has not competed since 2007, Shamrock has been considerably more active, fighting six more times since Gracie’s last MMA bout. Shamrock’s record has suffered over the second half of his career, but he believes the experience he has acquired over the years will serve him well at Bellator 149.
“When I first fought Royce Gracie I only had two and a half years of experience of being a professional fighter. Royce had 20-something years already under his belt, already had so many fights under his belt. He already had the family, the experience and the knowledge of 100 years in his family,” Shamrock said. “This time around though he’s fighting an educated and a seasoned veteran, not somebody who decided full of piss and vinegar to just go out there using his strength and will to win himself the fight. But now you’ve got a guy who’s got the experience and the savvy of a veteran who also has the fire and desire, but he’s also bigger and stronger.”
Despite his lengthy layoff, Gracie has expressed confidence in his ability to perform. He even notably said that he could do the fight “right now” if called upon. That thinking is foolhardy, says Shamrock.
“I’m shocked that somebody with serious knowledge and that’s been in the business this long would say something that ignorant. Because it really is ignorant,” he said. “You don’t disrespect the sport by saying, I could go in there and fight right now. Because we realize that’s just not true. Yeah, 20 years ago he could, because people didn’t understand skills, didn’t understand what he was doing.
“You better wake up and realize it’s not yesterday; it’s today. Things have changed. We have knowledge. We understand the game. It’s not the same thing it was when he could go in anywhere and go in and do something because your skills are that much better. It’s not that way anymore. He better wake up.”
As far as his future beyond February, Shamrock is noncommittal. For now, all of his focus is on the task at hand. However, he thinks Gracie will have a much different outlook regarding any future fights after their third meeting.
“Honestly I don’t think after this fight he’ll want to fight again. Maybe I’m making a fool of myself, but I’ve been fighting. I know what the landscape is out there,” Shamrock said. “I just don’t think Royce, after this next fight, I don’t think he’s gonna want to fight again.”