Every hero needs and arch nemesis. And if Royce Gracie is considered the most influential person in MMA/UFC history, then Ken Shamrock needs to be right there with him. During the early days of the UFC, the two men were among the best and most famous fighters in MMA, and helped paved the way for thousands of fighters to follow in their footsteps. Seeing as I have already spoke about Royce in a different article, today I will focus on his foe, Ken Shamrock.
As a child, Shamrock was often left to his own devices to fend for himself. This led him to get in a number of physical altercations, and had an overall rough childhood with absentee parents. In high school, he used sports and athletics in high school and soon zeroed in on his love for wrestling. He also excelled at football, but ultimately wanted to go for a career in pro wrestling.
And while he did wrestle for a couple of promotions (including a brief, few year stint in the WWF), it was his time in MMA that got him his fame and worldwide popularity. He first gained an interest in MMA after fighting in Pancrase, a hybrid wrestling sport. After his time with Pancrase, Shamrock was invited to participate in UFC 1. He was one of the favorites to win it, but ran into Royce Gracie in the second round.
The two men would go on to have a big rivalry for the next few years and even fought again in 2016. The pairs second fight came at UFC 5 where they fought for 36 minutes to a draw in what would be known as the first “superfight” in UFC history. After this, he went on to fight Dan Severn at UFC 6 and became the first UFC Heavyweight champion and thus, was given the number one spot in the world in terms on MMA fighters.
After his title win, Shamrock (like Gracie) went on become an absolutely massive star and one of the faces of the promotion. He set numerous PPV records for his cards and actually went on to main event or co-main event over 15 MMA cards, which is one of the highest numbers of all time. He is a true legend in the sport and was one of the first two entrants into the UFC Hall of Fame, along with Royce Gracie.
And despite starting in the UFC in 1993 and not fighting for the promotion for over a decade, Shamrock is still technically an active MMA fighter and, as mentioned previously, just had his trilogy fight with Royce Gracie in early 2016 in Bellator, even though he was over 50 years old. When people look back at the history of the UFC, he is one of a very small handful of fighters who can be seen as truly influential in the sport, leading it to become one of the fastest growing in the world.