Ken Shamrock says he's long past getting angry to step in the cage. He doesn't get nervous under the lights. He likes to beat people up. It's his job, one he's held longer than virtually anyone in the business. When he steps into the cage with Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson on Oct. 4 for Elite XC's third CBS-televised card in Sunrise, Fla., he'll be punching the clock once again.
According to Elite XC, the two are a ready-made pair to attract ratings that CBS needs to continue in mixed martial arts.
"This is the fight we've been looking at for a long time," Elite XC Vice President Jeremy Lappen said. "It's two of the biggest stars in the sport. The match-up is compelling, and it's a fight that a huge audience will want to see."
Shamrock also acknowledges that pissed off pre-fight talk is part of his job too, something he did all too well in a media teleconference today. A master of hyperbole, he attacked Slice throughout the hour-long call, as well as journalists who questioned his reputation. In turn, Slice taunted him. A verbal sparring match ensued.
Shamrock's first shot out of the gate, though, was an apology.
"I want to apologize right here and now for my last couple performances in MMA," he said. "There's no excuse for it. I have my reasons, but they're just excuses. But I will tell you this, on Oct. 4 I will shut everybody up and I will make amends for those fights, Oct. 4, by putting Kimbo's light's out."
Soon after, Shamrock addressed the chorus of fans and pundits calling for his retirement. At 44, he hasn't won a fight in four years, and since returning to the sport in 2000 after a stint in professional wrestling, has won only three of his last eleven fights. Shamrock has informally retired several times, most recently after his third loss to Tito Ortiz in October of 2006, but has always returned to the sport where he made his name.
Retirement is a relevant question for anyone who's seen the highs and persistent lows of a career like Shamrock. He maintains he will fight as long as he can, for better or for worse. This job is the only one he ever wanted to do, and only he can decide when to hang up his gloves.
"Everybody has the right to say what they're saying 'can I get in the ring, should I get in the ring, do I deserve to be in the ring?' Only one that can answer that question is myself," he said. "And I guarantee you I will answer that question and I'm going to put a period at the end of it."
Statements aside, Shamrock took issue with his role in the fight, especially the notion of him being "served up" as a sacrificial lamb for Slice, which he agreed with.
"That's absolutely what this is," he said. "And I am absolutely taking this as an insult to me, and I am going to smash it back in their face."
Elite XC executives Lappen and Jared Shaw quickly entered the fray to put down that idea.
"We're talking about the press here," Shaw said. "The press want to paint a picture here that Ken is washed up and he's being served up, and that's fine if that's what the press believes. Ken doesn't believe that, Elite XC doesn't believe that."
With that out of the way, Shamrock went back to trying to make Kimbo look bad.
"The only time (Kimbo) has knocked anybody out is when they started to get tired," he said. "So I don't respect his power, I don't respect his grappling ability. I'm going to go in there and whip his ass. I hit hard. He's going to eat a few of my punches, some leg kicks, some push kicks, (and) he's gonna get tired. I don't even have to take the guy down. He's going to fall down."
"Ken, I'm going to let you hit me," Slice interjected. "I'm going to give you a chin shot."
"You guys heard that," Shamrock announced to the teleconference. "See, that's why I'm the veteran and you're the rookie. Because you're an idiot."