We’ve seen schemes and mind games galore, but now that the three-week selection is process finally behind us, it’s time to delve into the meat of the Fight Master sandwich: the tournament. Sixteen welterweights, split into four teams of four, are set to go to battle, with one ultimate winner pocketing a cool $ 100,000 and seizing a spot in the next Bellator tournament.
With such high stakes on the line, Wednesday episode brought us the first two fights of the season, both of which featured a student of our guest, Frank Shamrock. A former Strikeforce, WEC, and UFC champion, Shamrock will join us every Thursday to elaborate on the week’s episode, share stories from the set and highlight some things we may have missed.
If you have any questions you’d like Shamrock to answer next week, please write them in the comments below. Remember that rec’d comments will get first priority. And with that said, let’s have some fun.
Al-Shatti: Last week we ended the selection process with a spot still open on your team. You ended up picking Joe Williams, who lost to Cole Williams. What about Joe stood out to you?
Shamrock: Balancing out the team, first and foremost. He had a really good wrestling base, which our team was lacking. We had Chris Lozano, but he wasn’t really a leader when it came to wrestling, and there were some good wrestlers in the game. Joe poured his heart out in his fight. He just didn’t have the striking skills to hurt Cole and make him respect his punches. So I thought we could give back to him, and he could be a huge asset to us.
Al-Shatti: I’m curious, what was your back-up plan in case Joe couldn’t go for some reason?
Shamrock: Ahhh … I can’t remember. But Joe was the toughest and showed the most out of all the guys that lost. He wasn’t finished, he fought to the end, he had his moments. You could tell, it was like his hands had suddenly grown gloves and he was punching for the first time. (Laughs.) He didn’t look like he knew what to do with his hands.
Al-Shatti: When it finally came time to create individualized camps, your whole philosophy seemed to revolve around mind, body and spirit. Even Lozano admitted, that was a side of fighting he’d never really explored before. What is it about the mental and spiritual aspect of fighting that you value?
Shamrock: When you have harmony in the different areas of your life, with your mind, body, and spirit, you’re just so much stronger, especially in really intense, stressful situations, like Fight Master. I just really felt like we needed the simplest core system — how to survive.
For me, it’s the way I’ve stayed grounded, number one, because I was always a student trying to learn. I was always on that quest and it kept me interested. It allowed me to balance wealth, celebrity and all those other things because I was also working on my spirit and trying to help people. The hardest part in this whole adventure, when I see a young kid going through it, is the fame and the money and all the stuff that comes with it. Because fighting is fun and interesting and cool, but the other stuff, that life, is really challenging.
Al-Shatti: I was surprised to see you give journals to all four of your fighters. What was the reason for that? Did they respond as well as you’d hoped?
Shamrock: It was funny. I think a lot of fighters have journals in some ways to document what they do, but nobody really talks about it. (Laughs.) Nobody really, I guess, has it as part of their daily system. So I just knew these guys have a lot of times on their hands, they’re going to be doing a lot of thinking, and if you sit around with all those thoughts rolling around in your head, distracting and confusing you, you’ll be thinking about other stuff. They needed a place to put that, organize it, get it in and out of their head, and just make them feel better, as well as keeping track of progress if they want to share their journals with me.
[The response was] half and half. I think the guys were just blown away to be in the situation in the first place, so everything felt a little crazy to them. I’m particularly weirder than all the other coaches, so I think they were just a little shocked. (Laughs.) But it works. I got up this morning and wrote in my journal. It’s part of being successful, just planning your life, catalogue successes, keep track of things that are important to you and make them a reality.
Al-Shatti: When it came time for the rankings, we didn’t really get to see much of it. Knowing you four, I’d imagine it was pretty combative process.
Shamrock: (Chuckles.) It was a loooong process. (Chuckles again.) There was a lot of wrestling and hip checking going on. That initial ranking was going to set up the format for the next stage of the game, so everybody fought hard. We realized after six or seven hours, no one was going to give up until they had somebody in the top-four, as we should have.
Al-Shatti: Wait, wait, wait. Six or seven hours?? Okay, seriously, how long did it take?
Shamrock: About six or seven hours. (Laughs.) Once you’re there, you’re not going anywhere. No one’s going to give up. They’re all world champions. No one’s going to back down. Once we figured that out, we just scrapped the whole thing and started from the bottom and worked our way up. That kind of worked for us.
It turned into a battle of attrition at the end. Confusion, and I think Joe (Warren) hit a couple wrestling moves. (Laughs.) It took a while.
Al-Shatti: So I’m assuming all sorts of subtle mind games were in play…
Shamrock: Joe really came out swinging and led the first run. He had, in his opinion, some guys that were ranked low and so he just came right out of the gate, like, ‘No, let me show you how it should be!’ (Laughs.) He pretty much set the tone, and it just kind of went in waves. We’d get something we all sort of agreed on, then one guy would be like, ‘Na, it doesn’t work like that.’ Then it just sort of started all over. I think we all made some concessions. I kept, the whole time, just taking guys I knew shouldn’t be ranked in certain places and just putting out crazy rankings. (Laughs.) It kept resetting the machine and messing the everybody up. People were getting frustrated and tired. I was able to get Lozano pretty high, but then Barnes got pushed pretty low as a result. I thought he should have been ranked higher, but it was a good game, that whole rankings process.
Al-Shatti: Well when we finally got to the fights, Cole Williams immediately called out your guy, No. 10 ranked Mike Dubious. How much time did you get to work and prepare with Mike, and how intensive was the preparation?
Shamrock: We had about six days. It was a day of healing, a couple days of training, and then you’re getting ready for fighting. We could do whatever we wanted in our camps, so we had two sessions a day, morning and night. Very focused, lots of technique. Mike, he was ready to fight, he just didn’t know how. You know what I mean? We just went over core basic stuff, good mindsets to understand what he’s facing and roll the dice.
Al-Shatti: Were you surprised Mike was the first guy other teams targeted?
Shamrock: Nope. Not at all. He’s only had a couple fights. You see him fight and you can tell. He’s a brawler. His game, it’s a street fighting game. A good wrestler and submission guy could quickly defeat him if he gets it to the ground.
Al-Shatti: Unfortunately that’s pretty much what happened. As a coach, what can you say to your guy after such a lopsided loss?
Shamrock: I just tried to keep him up because I knew he fought to the best of his abilities. His big thing was, ‘I tapped.’ It was like, ‘No, man, you got caught. He was going to choke you out. You weren’t getting out of that.’ But he lost because he didn’t have the skill. So keep training. That’s what you’re here for. That’s kind of what I told him. It’s the truth.
[But] I knew 98-percent what was going to happen. After punching, he grabbed Williams’ head and I was like, ‘Aw.’ The minute you grab his head, you’re going to get taken down. But there’s nothing you can do. That’s the hardest part, the most challenging part as a coach here, especially when you’re trying to give them what they really need. We’re really just patching it, trying to get through to the next round and get healthy. It’s truly a competition and there’s so many variables. It’s kind of crazy.
Al-Shatti: To finish us off, Chris Lozano calls out No. 14 Bryan Travers. What went into that decision? Did Chris consult with you or did he make it on his own?
Shamrock: That was his own. He saw something in Travers that he liked or didn’t like, or he wanted to test himself. I think Chris is a ‘wanting to test himself’ kind of guy, so he wanted to really fight guys that don’t get tired.
I didn’t like it and was hoping to encourage him otherwise, but he made up his mind. Travers was ranked pretty low, but I thought there was good risk in it because the heart and the tenacity this kid shows when he fights. Just the cardio aspect. Lozano is a super athlete, but he’s also doubting and thinking and worrying about his cardio. So therefore his cardio is always bad, because he’s always thinking and worrying about it. It’s not a real issue, but he’s making it into one. And Travers is the opposite. Cardio is his strength. Working hard is his strength. So I didn’t like the match-up, but I understood what Chris needed to do and what he wanted to do, so we got it to work.
Al-Shatti: You’ve said before that it’s been awhile since you trained younger fighters. Was that the first time in a long time that you’ve served as a cornerman?
Shamrock: Actually, yeah. I mean, I’ve wandered in and out of corners in recent years, but that was less for coaching and more for morale. So it was the first time in a long time that I was head cornerman and running the corner team. I felt like I was 25 years old. Time shifted right there, I was yelling and screaming. It was very exhilarating and scary and fun and nerve-racking. I knew these kids didn’t have all they needed to have and a lot of risk was involved. A lot of it was like, ‘Ah, if I could’ve just had him for another month, I could make sure it wasn’t going to get wacky in there.’ There’s a lot of anxiety attached to the fact that I knew ‘x’ was happening, or I knew ‘y’ could happen and there was nothing I could do.
Al-Shatti: Did you know you had it in the bag when Chris reversed that last-second takedown?
Shamrock: Oh yeah. That’s the first time I’ve seen Chris really push and drive hard. In the gym, he’s awesome, but he’s just a little bit lazy and reluctant at times. So this was the first time I saw him go for something. The fight could’ve gone either way. He’s could’ve easily taken a few steps back and given up. We didn’t know what his heart was like until that moment, and he showed it. If Lozano would’ve went down, Brian would’ve won. It’s just the judges. They’re watching the moment. At that moment they were neck and neck. That came down to pure heart. They were both exhausted, their styles were both deteriorating because of it. I tell all my guys, ‘You let it go to a judges’ decision, that’s your fault. If you lose, it’s 100-percent your fault. You’re giving the [onus] to somebody else.’ So I was worried, but I felt like he won the fight, especially in the last 30 seconds. It sort of cemented the fight.
Al-Shatti: So we end the episode with your team’s record at 1-1. Next week you have another guy up to bat, last ranked Joe Williams. Does he have what it takes to surprise some people?
Shamrock: I think so. I mean, I saw him get knocked down, and then — the ugliest punches you’ve ever seen — clock Cole Williams and make him move. Cole Williams is a skilled man. He’s very skilled all the way around. So I just knew that Joe had something going there. He just seemed like he never had anyone give him MMA [training]. Like, he had a couple of patches of this, he was a great wrestler, but it was just building him from a tough guy.
eric_barber writes: Do you think that this Fight Master tournament is harder, easier or the same than The Ultimate Fighter? In what ways is it different?
Shamrock: Hmmm… wow. Well, I haven’t seen The Ultimate Fighter since someone peed on the bed. (Laughs.) I can’t remember what happened before that, but this is the hardest athletic competition I’ve ever seen. In reality, I wasn’t prepared for it. Because it’s like, you can’t take a guy and have him fight every six days. It just, you do that in consecutive weeks, weeks on end, the standards, the attrition, the level of competition that we’re at, it’s too hard. But these guys did it. These guys went way above and beyond. I told my guys, ‘Nobody’s ever done this. This is crazy. And whoever can keep their mind right, keep their heart right, their spirit going and their body healthy, that’s the guy who’s going to win.’
Do you have a question for Frank Shamrock? Write it in the comments below and we’ll ask him next week. ‘Fight Master’ airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. Portions of this interview have been abridged for concision.
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