Three-time world champion and mixed martial arts legend, Frank Shamrock (24-9-1), will make his dramatic return to the cage when he squares off with fellow knockout artist Nick Diaz (18-7, 1 NC) in the main event of Strikeforce’s first MMA event of the year at San Jose, California’s HP Pavilion on Saturday, April 11.
The event represents the dawn of a new age for Strikeforce as it will be the first event under its new television agreement with premium television network SHOWTIME. The live telecast will feature up to five fights including the Shamrock-Diaz main event beginning live at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
The matchup, which will be contested at a catch weight of 179 lbs, is an opportunity for the hard-punching Diaz to avenge a devastating, 21-second knockout that his trainer, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Cesar Gracie, suffered at the hands of Shamrock in the main event of Strikeforce’s historic MMA debut event at HP Pavilion on March 10, 2006.
Also on the fight card, middleweight (185-pound limit) sluggers Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith (16-5, 1 NC) and Benji “Razor” Radach (19-4) will battle each other in a featured contest.
Tickets for “Shamrock vs. Diaz,” priced from $30, go on sale to the general public on Monday, February 23, at 10 a.m. PT at the HP Pavilion box office (408-287-7070) as well as at all Ticketmaster locations (408-998-TIXS), Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com), and Strikeforce’s official website (www.strikeforce.com).
“I’d be pretty pissed off if someone smashed my coach,” said the 36-year-old Shamrock, who is regarded by many as the father of modern day MMA. “Diaz is going to be carrying the pride of his school with him, but a fight’s a fight. Someone’s getting smashed and it’s just not going to be me.”
A San Jose, Calif. resident, Shamrock earned his lofty stature by bringing to the sport a polished, hybrid fighting style combining western boxing, kickboxing and submission wrestling in the mid-90’s when most MMA competitors’ skills were heavily concentrated in a single fight discipline. He was crowned the first UFC middleweight champion in history after stopping “The Huntington Beach Badboy” Tito Ortiz with an onslaught of strikes in what is regarded as one of the greatest MMA battles of all-time.
“I’m done breaking myself for entertainment,” Shamrock continued. “I’m just going to break everybody else and they’ll be entertained by that.”
Diaz, a stone-faced 25-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt from Stockton, Calif., responded, “Frank and I have always lived in a 100 mile radius of each other. When I got into this (sport), the people around here were all about Frank Shamrock, so I turned around and walked the other way.”
“I’ve crossed paths and trained with people who have also trained with Frank,” continued Diaz. “I know what they do, how they fight, and the way they act, so it’s great for me to get this fight while I’m still young. There’s a lot of things I can talk about, but I’m going to represent Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and I’m down for whatever’s going to happen in this fight.”
Diaz is long known as one of MMA’s most rebellious characters with a short fuse and crowd-pleasing style. He exploded onto the national MMA scene when he stunned fellow rising star “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler with a right hook to the jaw that put Lawler flat on the canvas at UFC 47 on April 2, 2004.
When he steps in the cage with Shamrock, Diaz will look to notch his fourth consecutive victory after turning in a flawless 2008 in which he stopped all three of his opponents, including his last adversary, Thomas “The Wildman” Denny.
”I just got a bigger picture of what’s going on in my life and in the world,” said Diaz of his recent success. “I think I just needed to grow up a bit. I did that and things are coming to me much easier now.”
Shamrock’s start will be his first since March 29, 2008, when he sustained a broken right arm while attempting to defend the Strikeforce world middleweight championship against longtime Bay Area rival and undefeated kickboxing champion Cung Le.
A Le round kick to the body caused the injury and prevented Shamrock from coming out to fight for the fourth round of a championship bout scheduled for five rounds.
“It healed up like it never happened,” said Shamrock of his arm that underwent surgery.
Prior to the title defense, Shamrock was crowned the first Strikeforce middleweight MMA champion in history after choking “The New York Badass” Phil Baroni unconscious in the second round of their live SHOWTIME PPV® battle at HP Pavilion on June 22, 2007.
Showtime Networks Inc. and Strikeforce jointly announced last week a multi-year agreement to create an all-new series of MMA events that will air live on SHOWTIME as part of the SHOWTIME Sports franchise. The two entities will produce and televise up to 16 live events per year, including world championship fight cards as well as a series dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming fighters in the sport.
The agreement reunites SHOWTIME and Strikeforce following their successful “Shamrock vs. Baroni” event, presented by SHOWTIME PPV in 2007 and the Shamrock vs. Cung Le telecast, which aired live on SHOWTIME.