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Frank Shamrock wore many faces—champion, mercenary, pioneer, advocate and enigma, to name but a few—in mixed martial arts, and as a result, he left an imprint on the sport that was all his own.
Shamrock made his MMA debut in Pancrase as a wet-behind-the-ears 22-year-old in 1994, compiled a 23-10-2 record and emerged as one of the sport’s most marketable stars during a 15-year career that saw him reach the pinnacle of his profession. The Santa Monica, California, native trained under adopted brother Ken Shamrock, former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Maurice Smith and American Kickboxing Academy founder Javier Mendez. Shamrock was at the height of his power between Sept. 26, 1997 and March 10, 2006, when he went 11-0-1 across 12 appearances. More than a decade after his retirement, he still holds a prominent place in the conversations of longtime fans and observers.
As Shamrock approaches his 48th birthday on Dec. 8, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. His foundation was built from the ground up.
Shamrock delivered more than half (12) of his 23 career victories by submission. His methods of choice: six rear-naked chokes, two kneebars, two armbars, one toe hold and one Achilles lock. Shamrock secured his first submission at Pancrase 1 on Jan. 26, 1995, when he put away Katsuomi Inagaki with a rear-naked choke, and authored his 12th and final submission on June 22, 2007, when he throttled Phil Baroni unconscious with a rear-naked choke at a co-promoted event between Strikeforce and EliteXC.
2. Strength of schedule was not an issue.
The nine men who managed to defeat Shamrock—Manabu Yamada, Masakatsu Funaki, Bas Rutten (twice), Yuki Kondo, Kiuma Kunioku, John Lober, Renzo Gracie, Cung Le and Nick Diaz—have 241 combined victories between them.
3. He was a supreme opportunist.
Shamrock owns two of the six fastest fight finishes of all-time in Ultimate Fighting Championship title fights. He submitted Kevin Jackson with an armbar to win the light heavyweight championship 16 seconds into their UFC 15.5 encounter in December 1997, then retained his belt with a 22-second slam knockout of Igor Zinoviev at UFC 16 less than three months later.
4. Some blue blood flows through his veins.
In addition to the titles he won in the UFC, Strikeforce and Pancrase, Shamrock was one of seven men who captured the World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight crown. Jason Lambert, Scott Smith, Lodune Sincaid, Doug Marshall, Brian Stann and Steve Cantwell were the others.
5. He earned his reputation as a hired gun.
Shamrock fought in 10 different promotions during his 35-fight career. He went 11-6-1 in Pancrase, 5-0 in the UFC, 2-2 in Strikeforce, 1-0-1 in Rings, 1-0 in the WEC, 1-0 in K-1, 1-0 in Vale Tudo Japan, 1-0 in the World Pankration Championships, 0-1 in SuperBrawl and 0-1 in EliteXC.