In honour of Ken Shamrock's birthday, we look at the career of one of MMA's founding fathers 8 years ago

In honour of Ken Shamrock's birthday, we look at the career of one of MMA's founding fathers

When we look back at the fighters who competed at UFC 1, all the way back in November of 1993, we're met with a number of names who give us a case of the 'Oh yeahs' as we see names like Gerard Gordeau, Patrick Smith and Art Jimmerson.

But there are only two names who stand out as genuine legends of the sport of mixed martial arts. One is Royce Gracie, who is generally considered to be responsible for bringing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to a mainstream audience after going on to win three of the first four UFC events.


And then there's the birthday boy Ken Shamrock, whose progress to the semi-finals in November of '93 started a run of 14 fights under the UFC banner which earned him his place on an exclusive list of just eight men who have been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Shamrock (28-15-2) turns 51 today and, as annoyingly nostalgic as we might be, we've decided to look back on his hugely entertaining and lengthy career in the fight game.

Before the words Mixed, Martial and Arts had ever been combined, Ken Shamrock had already competed in a "mixed rules" contest in 1992 in which he submitted Don Nakaya Nielsen via Americana after just 45 seconds.


People were still trying to figure out how the hell to combine the fighting disciplines of striking and grappling and there really weren't any MMA gyms in existence in the early 90s.

Many people believe that UFC 1 was Shamrock's first pro MMA outing but he already had 3 wins under his belt at that stage. His first official pro mixed martial arts fight came in 1993 in Pancrase, an early MMA promotion based in Japan.

Shamrock went on to win his debut via arm triangle against pro wrestler and one of the promotions founders, Masakatsu Funaki.


After going on to win his next two bouts in Pancrase via submission Shamrock then accepted a fight at the very first UFC event, which was an entirely different entity from the polished, heavily-regulated promotion that we now know and love.

The fight card was an open-weight, no-holds-barred, tournament-based competition, with the finalists having to fight three times in the one evening.

Shamrock won his quarter-final fight, against kickboxer Patrick Smith, via heel-hook before falling to the tournament's eventual winner Royce Gracie in Shamrock's first pro loss. The Gracie fight is widely considered to  have started the first real MMA rivalry as, at that time, Shamrock and Royce were thought to be the only fighters who truly knew what they were doing when it came to MMA.

After losing another fight in January 1994, Shamrock put together an impressive run of three victories in Pancrase including wins over big-name fighters in Matt Hume and Bas Rutten which pushed his early MMA record to 8-2.


"The World's Most Dangerous Man" returned to the octagon at UFC 3 when he made it to the tournament final after a pair of stoppages but, due to injury, he was unable to compete in the deciding fight.

The event acted as a springboard for the best run of results' in Shamrock's career as he went 9-0 in just six months between September 1994 and March 1995 which included his first ever decision victory against Manabu Yamada when he was crowned the Pancrase openweight champion.

Shamrock's next trip to the octagon was a rematch of UFC 1's final as he took on Royce Gracie in what was being dubbed a superfight and it resulted in the longest fight of either fighter's career, going a gruelling 36 minutes as both legends fought to a draw at UFC 5.


The then 31-year-old took the UFC superfight championship as he beat eventual UFC Hall-of-Famer Dan Severn via guillotine choke.

After defending that title twice, against Oleg Taktarov and Kimo Leopoldo, Shamrock was defeated by Severn in their May 1996 rematch via controversial split decision.

Shamrock had one more MMA fight, a submission victory over Brian Johnston, before he packed his bags and swapped the octagon for the glitzier lifestyle of the WWF in 1997.

Shamrock spent almost four years away from the arena of professional fighting as he went on to enjoy a successful career under Vince McMahon, in which he won the organisation's Intercontinental championship in 1998.

His "World's Most Dangerous Man" image translated well to the world of professional wrestling and he was often portrayed as a loose cannon with a penchant for submission holds, not too far a cry from his real-life MMA personality.

Vince McMahon used Shamrock in his favourite hobby of blurring the lines between reality and storylines by having Shamrock re-ignite his very real MMA rivalry with Dan Severn in a match on RAW.

During his stint in the wrestling ring, though, Shamrock never fully stepped away from his mixed martial arts roots and he continued to train and corner fighters.

At 23–5–2 in MMA, Shamrock felt that he hadn't done everything he could in the sport so he returned to the fight game on May 1, 2000 in PRIDE when he knocked out Alexander Otsuka.

This victory is largely considered to be the last display of Shamroc's dominance as, after this, he struggled to recapture his grappling dominance after this fight.

After losing a decision to fellow MMA legend Don Frye, Shamrock saw one of the most heated MMA rivalries of all time get underway as he finally clashed with Tito Ortiz.

The feud between Shamrock and Ortiz had been months in the making after Tito Ortiz beat one of the Ken Shamrock's Lion's Den fighters, Guy Mezger, and proceeded to stick his middle finger up at Mezger's corner which included a livid Shamrock.

ortiz ken

The rivalry was one that was filled with genuine hatred but it was Ortiz who came out on top in all three fights of a trilogy that featured far more trash-talk than competitive fights.

After barely surviving three rounds in the first fight, Shamrock's corner threw in the towel to finish a fight in which the discrepancy in skill-level could not have been more obvious.

The pair then coached Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter where they clashed on a regular basis before they rematched at UFC 61. This fight ended in controversy as many thought Ortiz' win came by way of an early stoppage.

Shamrock's final fight against "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" would be his last with the UFC as he was finished in the first round.

He then made his way to UK promotion Cage Rage where his diminishing skills became clear for all to see as he was stopped by Robert Berry.

It became apparent that we were witnessing the demise of one of the founding fathers of MMA and, despite the fighting community at large crying out for his retirement, Shamrock continued fighting until 2010 when he found himself on the wrong end of yet another TKO, this time at the hands of Mike Bourke.

But fighting is like a bug and the man who turns 51 today seemingly can't stay away as, only last month, it was revealed that he was set to engage in a bare-knuckle boxing bout against "bareknuckle legend James Quinn" this year.

We're all hoping that, regardless of the result, that Shamrock gets through this fight unscathed as we'd hate to see a true legend of mixed martial arts finish his fighting career with permanent injuries.

In 2015, and at 51, it seems an awfully long time ago that Shamrock was submitting Bas Rutten and Dan Severn but he'll always be "The World's Most Dangerous Man" to us.