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Exclusive Interview: Frank Shamrock Talks Cung Le, Couture-Fedor, And Why He Left The UFC

Frank Shamrock is an MMA legend. He is the UFC’s first middleweight champion and left the organization, at the height of his popularity, undefeated inside of the octagon.

Shamrock has been very busy lately and is preparing for a big 2008 with a fight slated against Cung Le and a fight against his his brother Ken Shamrock on the horizon.

Shamrock was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and discuss a variety of issues including his upcoming match up against Cung Le, his strained relationship with his brother Ken, the reason why he left the UFC at the height of his fame, his triumph over a difficult childhood and much more. In part one of our three part interview with Frank Shamrock, he discusses his upcoming fight with Cung Le, the reasons he left the UFC as well as his thoughts on the current state of the worlds most popular MMA organization.

MMAFightline: You’re participating in one of the most anticipated MMA matchups of the year when you take on Cung Le this April. What are your thoughts on how the fight will go down?

Shamrock: I think he’ll stand up and run and I think he’ll take me down after I hit him a few times, try to hold me down. Unfortunately, from his side it’s probably not going to be the most exciting fight in the world. There’ll be a lot of running, shooting, grabbing but we’ll see.

MMAFightline: Do you see him avoiding the stand up game with you?

Shamrock: I think he’ll stand for distance and kick on me and stuff, but he won’t exchange with me…at least I don’t think so.

MMAFightline: How would you rate his ground game?

Shamrock: He’s a good wrestler. I don’t know about his submissions skills. I know he can’t submit me…I mean there’s not too many guys that can submit me.

MMAFightline: So do you think he poses a threat to you at all?

Shamrock: Sure! You know, anybody that’s a half decent striker…the striking games dangerous and he’s definitely got the striking skills. He could land a shot. The only people that are gonna beat me are gonna be the guys that can knock me out. We’ll see if he’s one of those guys. I don’t think so, but you never know.

MMAFightline: There is a whole generation of fight fans that never got to see you fight for the UFC in your prime. Can you tell these fans why you left the UFC?

Shamrock: Sure. At the time the sport wasn’t going anywhere and I really knew that the sport was going to be huge. And the business side of me didn’t think it was smart to keep banging myself up for nobody to see and keep breaking up my body when we were in the dark ages. You know, I just didn’t see much point to that so I got out. If no ones gonna see your art then you shouldn’t keep doing it like that. I also felt that I’d done what I could in the UFC, there was certainly no one that could, at the time, beat me. And it was just time for me to do the next thing. You know, I had a family and I was running my own business and I needed to expand my own brand.

MMAFightline: Have you spoken with Dana White lately about the possibility of returning to the UFC?

Shamrock: No I haven’t talked to him for a while. I just don’t believe in what they’re doing unfortunately. You know, I’ve been there since the beginning and they’ve taken up a wonderful sport and made it bigger and they worked hard to start it, you know. But they erased anyone who wouldn’t support them or sign a contact with them. Basically you’re either with them or you’re against them. They took a big business approach to what I though was an art form and I don’t know…it just didn’t jive well with me.

MMAFightline: Will we ever see Frank Shamrock fight in the UFC again?

Shamrock: I can never say never because the moment I do something always happens, so I don’t know. But I don’t see it in the near future. It’s certainly not on my plans of things to do.

MMAFightline: The UFC has seen its share of PR issues in the past year. What are your thoughts about some of the problems they’ve been facing?

Shamrock: What comes around goes around and unfortunately when you monopolize anything eventually the cracks start to appear and the walls break down. And their running into all of those problems that all big businesses run into and all large companies that try to take control of everything. But, they’ll get through it. They’ve got a very popular brand in a very popular genre of combative arts and they have the largest market share. They’re not going anywhere. They’ll weather it, it’s like any other business.

MMAFightline: The UFC has obviously had issues with two of the best heavyweights in the world in Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianeko. Couture left because he wanted to face Fedor. Do you think this fight will happen?

Shamrock: I don’t think that’s ever going to happen…I don’t think so. I could be wrong, but I think Randy’s getting toward the end of his career and I think that the people that are representing Fedor are realizing that the talent is the most important thing. The brand and the talent are the most important things. The show’s not the most important thing. The UFC promotes their business model that the show is all important and only the UFC is important and nothing else. And that’s just not the case, people don’t follow companies they follow stars and they follow stories.

MMAFightline: How have you been able to achieve the level of success you’ve achieved to where you are still such a draw outside of the UFC? What do you attribute your success to?

Shamrock: Well, I attribute it to standing by my brand. I’m a businessman and I’m honest about the things I want and the things I want to do. When you work for the UFC they control you. Anything and everything, they want to capitalize on you and make as much money as they can until their done with you. They’re not concerned about your legacy, they’re not concerned about your brand, there not concerned about your fan base. They’re concerned about their brand, their fan base. I’ve just been successful because I’m an honest person, you know. I do what I think is right, I represent myself well and I fight my heart out. And I think that’s what the fans what to see; someone that they can relate to and somebody that fights hard.

MMAFightline: How have things been different with the current companies that you fight for, Strikeforce and EliteXC?

Shamrock: With Strikeforce and Elite when I do a fight or an event it’s a collaborative thing. They ask me what I think about marketing ideas. They ask me for my ideas and allow me input in both direct and indirect marketing. They allow me to exercise my brand. They don’t tell me what my brand is going to be inside of their company. And that’s a big difference [from the UFC]. When your in the UFC they tell you, ‘Well your gonna fight that guy and then your going to fight this guy and we’re going to do the marketing for you the way we want to’ and for me I believe in my brand and I know what I want to say and I know what I think is the most impacting. I go with my gut and EliteXC and Strikeforce let me do that.

What is the future for companies like ProElite and Strikeforce?

Shamrock: Well, I think all companies have a chance. Especially companies that are managed well, run well and do good business. I think it depends on how much of the market share you want to try and grab. ProElite and Strikeforce…all the companies have a chance to do a lot of good if you run a tight ship. As soon as you start cutting corners and taking advantage of talent, people and other businesses, you know, that’s when you run into trouble.

Be sure to check back for part two of our interview with Frank Shamrock as he goes in depth on growing up with his brother Ken, their up coming fight and thier strained relationship.