My First Fight: Frank Shamrock

By Ben Fowlkes

When Frank Shamrock paroled out of Folsom Prison in the early nineties, he had narrowed his career choices down to three possibilities.

“I was going to be a physical therapist, or an exotic dancer, or I was going to do this no-holds-barred fighting thing that Ken [Shamrock] was doing. And I didn’t know anything about any of them.”

Shamrock had spent most of the last decade in one institutionalized setting or another, whether it was group homes, youth crisis centers, or prison. His adopted father, Bob Shamrock, pointed him in the direction of the Lion’s Den, then an unknown gym for a mostly unknown sport, and run by Frank’s adopted older brother Ken. The first day Shamrock walked in the door, he was told he’d be getting a “tryout.”

“You did 500 squats, 500 sit-ups, 500 leg-lifts, 250 push-ups, then you fought Ken for 20 minutes,” Shamrock says. “After that it took me about four days before I could walk down the stairs again. I was just traumatized, and I didn’t know you could tap. Ken was tearing my ankles and knees out, and I was just taking it. I didn’t know you could tap and I was trying to be this tough guy. That was my intro to it.”

For reasons even he can’t fully articulate, Shamrock kept coming back. The next thing he knew, his brother had arranged for him to spend eight weeks living and training in a dojo in Japan.

“I had spent three years in jails and prisons, and then all of a sudden I’m in Japan in this dojo. It was just so surreal. I was this young kid and nobody even knew what I was doing there.”

What he was doing, as it turned out, was preparing for a fight in the King of Pancrase tournament in December of 1994. Along with his brother Ken, the 22-year-old Shamrock joined early MMA luminaries such as Matt Hume, Maurice Smith, and Vernon “Tiger” White on the fight card that night in Tokyo.

In the first round of the tournament, and for his first professional bout, Shamrock drew a Dutchman by the name of Bas Rutten.


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