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Shamrock looking for the next MMA superstar

7/31/2007

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Frank Shamrock opened the doors to his sun-drenched
Shamrock Martial Arts Academy a week ago Sunday for a reality show
casting call, which also served as an opportunity to join Shamrock's
Submission Fight Team. The living legend welcomed four newcomers into
his world: fighting, the art -- not the act.

The former UFC champion walked around his facility like a NFL running
back on Monday morning. Knee problems prevented him from taking the
fighters through scrambles, striking, clinching and submissions before
putting it all together in a "flow."

Shamrock still directed the fighters on the mats as soon as possible.

"I think we should just sword-fight," said Shamrock, who sat on a
plyometric ball swatting the mat with a foam sword, all the while
saying "please" while instructing the fighters.

Participants showcased their talents against Sean Bassett, a Shamrock
student and Strikeforce veteran, as two television producers watched. One nicely executed wrestling switch prompted Shamrock to burst out: "That was awesome!"

The former King of Pancrase interjected fight philosophies in his coaching.

"Every time you get hit in the head, time slows down just a bit," he
said with his permanent smile before teasing, "You didn't expect to
work so hard on a Sunday."

Despite the demeanor of a bright-eyed kid with ADHD, Shamrock did
distribute advice in more serious tones: "If you don't flow, you're not
entertaining."

For four amateur fighters, the brief workout with the multi-time
champion was invaluable. And it was over.

Shamrock's accomplishments did not deter him from playing host. He
brought out water from behind the bar. He invited the fighters to
come back whenever they wanted. When they left, there was still a
scorching Sunday afternoon that needed his attention.

That is, of course, after he dealt with a guy named Wesley, who came in off the street for an audition of sorts.

Wesley, a lanky street fighter with luminous tattoos and finger-sized
holes in his ears from gauged earrings, straggled into the gym after
training ended. Despite Wesley's tardiness and lack of any formal
training, the San Jose Razorclaws commander expressed an interest in
the kid:

"How many street fights have you had?" said Shamrock.

"Too many," Wesley said, laughing.

"More than 10?"

"Yes."

"Have you been hit in the head with a bottle?"

"Yes."

"You're not what we're looking for, sorry. Thanks for showing up though!"

Shamrock went right back to light-hearted exchanges with Ralph King, the
Academy's general manager, and Bassett. Every mood -- as long as it's
positive -- is found around Shamrock.

Life -- and it wasn't always this way -- is good. Sipping Xyience
Xenergy, relaxing on a couch, the 34-year-old martial artist examined
himself and the future of the sport he entered 13 years ago.

"It feels stronger and I have less pain," he said of his injured knee. A damaged MCL/ACL could keep him out a nine-month minimum. Shamrock hopes to rehab the knee and skip surgery.

He wants to fight soon.

Accused by nemesis Phil Baroni among others of picking his fights, the
Strikeforce middleweight champion intends to keep his fight card full.

"I want to fight Renzo; I need to fight Renzo [Gracie] for the fans and for
myself," Shamrock said. "He's definitely the next guy. I want to fight
until the body says 'no.' I've got a plan to '09."

A divisive figure for his untimely retirement and supreme confidence,
Shamrock believes there are few appealing fights for him. Tito Ortiz's
soon-to-be expired UFC contract, however, is attractive to Shamrock,
who would like to fight "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" again.

"I think that we're kind of at a lull in the sport where there are no
superstars. I'm sort of waiting for someone to pop up and be a
superstar," he said, slipping into his most serious tone of the day.
"It's not Nick Diaz, I can tell you that. I'm sure somebody will show
up and make a good story, good fight out of it."

He then expressed the grievance about a sport he cradled in its infancy
that digs into his chiseled frame.

"What mixed martial arts is being marketed as is not the truth," said
Shamrock. "We're not a bunch of idiots in a cage drinking beer all the
time. It's a lifestyle, but it's a positive lifestyle."

Psychology suggests one's living space is a reflection of one's mind.
This rings true for the Shamrock Martial Arts Academy -- Frank Shamrock
left his Strikeforce championship sprawled on his desk, competing for
space among the paper clutter. After all, this is just a business; titles
and recognition -- as suggested by a Full Contact Fighter Fighter of
the Year Award perched on the bar -- are not important.

Fighting -- the art -- is what is important to Shamrock. That is why
the in-between time is just fun. That is why his only words for fans
are, "Keep training."

Danny Acosta covers mixed martial arts for Sherdog.com.