A lot of pro fighters don't like to make predictions before their fights. They feel it's bad luck, perhaps a little too much hubris even for men who typically live in the small space between confidence and bravado. Frank Shamrock has never shied away from hubris. He's never lacked confidence, and rarely misses an opportunity to remind you of his status as a legend in this sport. It's only fitting that his prediction for his Strikeforce bout with Nick Diaz on Saturday night should be similarly devoid of even the slightest hint of self-doubt.
"I'm going to knock him out in the first round," Shamrock says calmly. "I'll hit him with a right hand to the body, then a right uppercut, and then a left hook, and then he'll fall down. And then I'll either jump on him or let him back up. I'll probably jump on him because I'm getting too old to be dancing around up there."
The last part is something of a joke. He doesn't really believe he's getting too old, even if he might be the only one. At thirty-six, Shamrock is on the downward slope of a career that can be modestly described as prolific. Almost fifteen years has passed since he debuted in Japan's Pancrase organization against Bas Rutten.
But there's no getting around it, the Diaz fight is an odd choice at this point in Shamrock's career. For one, it's being contested at a catchweight of 179 pounds, though Shamrock says he has "no clue" why. There's no title on the line or score to settle. It's just a fight for the sake of fighting. It makes you wonder, what's at stake here?
"Honestly, I don't know," says Shamrock. "It's just another fight to me. I think there are some questions about my age and my body. I don't think I have any problems with my body, but everybody else seems to think so. Other than that, it's another physical challenge for me. I don't think I have a lot to gain from it really, but it's another fight."
If there's one problem Diaz doesn't have however, it's finding the right motivation. To him, it's always personal. He made that perfectly clear at the press conference to announce the fight. When Shamrock tried to shake his hand, he got an obscene gesture that has become almost a Diaz trademark in response.
"I think a lot of that is a gimmick," Shamrock says. "I think he's a good kid. I think he just doesn't know how to express himself, and I also think he's incredibly nervous opposite somebody as polished and experienced as I am. Like a little kid, you know, you yell and scream and throw a fit and it covers up what's really going on. I've always known him to be polite and personable and respectful to me. I've always enjoyed his company, to be honest with you. But this fight has changed the way we interact, definitely. I think he's just scared."
Just in case this fight needed another odd facet added to it, Diaz -- who had his 2007 victory over Takanori Gomi ruled a no contest after testing positive for marijuana -- recently indicated to a Los Angeles Times reporter that he has no intention of giving up his drug of choice in order to test clean for this fight, adding that he uses "herbal cleansers" to beat the pre and post-fight drug tests.
For Shamrock, Diaz's decision to not only habitually use marijuana, but also to telegraph his intent to cheat the drug tests is both befuddling and a little amusing.
"Well, I certainly don't agree with it. I guess if he passes the test, those are the rules. But I certainly don't agree with his lifestyle and his marketing of that lifestyle as a part of mixed martial arts, because I don't think that's a part of the sport. I think he's somewhat of a freak in that way. I don't know, maybe for some people it is [performance-enhancing]. It's obviously something he believes in. I don't think he's Rastafarian or anything, so it's not like it's a religious thing. I think it's like medication for him. Maybe it calms his mind. Maybe he's got a frayed mind."
But whatever he may think of Diaz's persona outside the cage, Shamrock doesn't kid himself about what his opponent is capable of once the fight starts.
"As a fighter I think he expresses himself well in the ring. Obviously he's got some social and emotional issues. But when he gets in the ring he can express himself. He's good standing up, he's good on the ground, so he's a pretty well-rounded guy. In that way he's definitely a challenge."
At a time when many fighters start to think about giving up the sport, Shamrock admits that he can't yet fathom it yet. As much as he hates to see the way his adopted brother Ken has insisted on fighting far past his prime because "he needs the money," according to Shamrock, for him it isn't about money, or even about his legacy. He's convinced that those areas are already taken care of.
"People are going to remember me as one of the best, regardless of what I do from this point forward," he says. "I'm a guy who spoke the truth, stood for something, and always fought his hardest. I hope that's what people remember me for."