Good Ken Shamrock Article

Reno's fight club boss comes back from rough start


By Scott Oxarart • • April 23, 2008

A mattress on the floor of an apartment in Chula Vista, Calif., is one of the worst memories that professional fighter Ken Shamrock has. The mattress, with no frame or box spring, was accompanied by a small TV on a night stand and little else.

It was 2002 and Shamrock was living poor. Alcohol, drugs and parties had helped blow away the serious money he made in mixed martial arts fighting. Over the course of his career, Shamrock has competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the World Wrestling Federation and the Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling leagues.

He had been one of the most prolific and feared fighters in the world, garnering the nickname "The World's Most Dangerous Man." But the lifestyle was killing him.

"I was making some money, some good money," said Shamrock, who is now 44. "Then I ended up with pretty much nothing. I went from being rich to being in rags."

But the Spanish Springs resident eventually rebounded. He now calls the Reno-Sparks area his home, and lives and works here with his second wife, managing a mixed martial arts gymnasium franchise called The Lion's Den.


Long road

The turnaround, however, didn't come easy.

Shamrock suffered through alcohol abuse and painful addiction and was saved, he says, with the help of religion and family values.

He was living in the Chula Vista apartment -- some 10 miles from the Mexican border at Tijuana -- with friends, trying to get by. He was embarrassed. In the late 1990s he had performed for thousands of fans, putting on a show with his tremendous strength and disciplined submission moves. Some reports said he made $1 million per year in the World Wrestling Foundation (WWF).

But he left the WWF, saying it was his time to go. The organization was looking for new characters, and the travel to nationwide venues was strenuous on his family and his body. And he wanted to get back to UFC fighting.

At around the same time, he split up with his first wife, with whom he had four children. The attorney and settlement fees were steep.

The cost of the divorce and the continued partying drained his bank account.

Living the high life attracted friends he never knew he had. As a celebrity, the partying rose to a new level. He had dreamed of it as a kid, he said, when he was sleeping in cars and group homes.

Shamrock said his mother had a number of relationships with men, and when he came across one he didn't like, Shamrock ran away. When he was 10, he took a knife to school and held a kid up for his lunch money. He stole candy and chips from stores when he was hungry. He was in seven group homes after he turned 10 years old.

In Chula Vista, money was again a problem. His kids would visit his apartment, and he was ashamed.

"I felt like I failed as a father," Shamrock said. "My kids were not doing well in school and they would come see me in this apartment and it was bad."

When his life could seemingly get no worse, Shamrock said an angel came to save him. He was reunited with his future wife, Tonya Shamrock.

He and Tonya had grown up together in Susanville and Shamrock's father told him Tonya had called looking for him. When Shamrock found out, he didn't want her to see him like he was -- broken.

Tonya had just gone through a divorce as well. She tracked him down in San Diego. They went on a date. She saw the mattress and his living conditions.

She didn't leave.

"I felt like God was pushing her toward me," he said. "When we got reacquainted again, I was afraid she would see what happened to me. The choices I made and the things that happened to me.

"So when I made that choice to move in with her about three or four months after that, after awhile I knew my life was changing. This was the angel He had sent to me. I thought that I had another chance at life again."

Shamrock learned to save his money after watching it nearly disappear. And he did save.

He ditched drugs and parties, he found comfort with Tonya. And he turned his life around.

Finding his place

Once a kid who had lived on the streets and group homes, held a knife to a kid demanding lunch money and broke his neck during a wrestling match, Shamrock was at peace.

"He's probably the happiest he's been in years," Tonya said. "He's normal."

Shamrock is in good shape, financially and physically, and experiencing the benefits of a clean and relaxed life.

He still has biceps with veins that creep down the middle, which get bigger during fights and workouts.

His 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame is stacked in the upper body. During a recent workout, he held 70-pound weights above his head for about 30 seconds while balancing on his back on an exercise ball.

His arms never wavered and when he got up, he acted like he'd been doing it all day.

"Twenty-five years of weight training helps," he said after.

Instead of fighting, these days Shamrock spends time with Tonya at their gym, The Lion's Den.

He has a sole proprietorship with five Lion's Den gyms throughout the U.S., which offer weight training and fight instruction. In March, he opened his fifth gym in Phoenix.

He also is coach of the Reno Lions, an MMA team in the International Fight League. He trains and teaches young fighters. Some matches are televised on Fox Sports, the others on pay-per-view.

"He's an innovator," said Rick Collup, who's owned Reno Academy and Combat for 14 years. "Not too many people knew about MMA back then. People thought it was just people killing each other. Ken's one of the first technicians of the sport. People in the business might not like him, but they respect what he's done."

With his long history in the relatively new (to the U.S.) sport, his name is often brought up. Recently, Shamrock's brother Frank accused him of using steroids. Ken Shamrock denied the accusations, saying he never tested positive for steroids and never refused a drug test.

Last week, Shamrock filed a lawsuit against the UFC for breach of contract. Shamrock rescinded his retirement and says he wasn't given an opportunity for a fight he was promised by the UFC.

Overall, though, Shamrock is happy. Since moving to Reno a year and a half ago, he is spending more time with his family. His nephew Jeffrey, 17, goes to Spanish Springs High.

Shamrock has three sons and a daughter from his previous marriage, and three stepchildren with Tonya.

Most of his schedule now is filled with his business interests in MMA, but Shamrock thinks he has two fights left before his career is over.

His 26-13-2 MMA record has already awarded him Hall of Fame honors in the UFC. His motivation, he says, is for the fans.

He wants them to enjoy his final fights. So he is looking for the matchup most conducive to that end.

Shamrock, in his mid-40s, is nearing the end of his career. He's lost five fights in a row, most recently in the first round to Robert Berry on March 8.

Shamrock had not lost more than two fights in a row prior to this.

"We want to see what fight makes sense," he said. "The next two fights have to make sense for me. None are being scheduled right now."

No mention of chicken and steak? Article = epic fail!

When did he fight Tito the first time?

wow, crazy he was that bad off only six years ago