On Friday, June 19th, an MMA bout nearly seven years in the making will take place. MMA pioneer Ken Shamrock will face off with street fighting icon Kimbo Slice at Bellator’s ‘Unfinished Business’ event, in St. Louis.
Once the headliner for a burgeoning company’s (Elite XC) foray into prime-time network programming, the original bout was scrapped due to a cut suffered by Shamrock, backstage, the night of the show.
The nearly seven year gap between scheduled fights has given the rumors surrounding Shamrock’s injury a sufficient gestation period to become nearly accepted as fact. The most popular theory being that Shamrock purposely injured himself the day of the fight, due to a financial obligation that he felt the promotion wasn’t meeting.
With the fight just over a week away, Shamrock showed no interest in revisiting the past, ignoring any questions about ‘the cut’, and instead focusing his attention on June 19th: “I don’t think it’s a secret that Kimbo Slice brings the fight. Everything I know about him and respect about him, is that when he gets in the ring, he brings it. I don’t think there’s any question about what kind of fight this is going to be. There’s a strategy on the mind of both men in a fight and they come in to see which one will work best. Right now there is no tomorrow, I’m focused on Kimbo and that’s it.”
At 51 years old, Shamrock is a physical marvel. Recent Twitter photos show the UFC Hall of Famer looking in incredible shape. Due to his past steroid use, this raises questions about whether Shamrock is once again utilizing PEDs. Bellator President Scott Coker assured reporters, in a conference call, that there was no fire to accompany the smoke: “Our main event fighters were subject to pre-fight drug testing and we were informed that both fighters passed their tests.”
Despite being in great condition physically, Shamrock is not only fighting Father Time, but the potential for ring rust as well, having not competed in nearly five years: “I’ve been at this for six months now and it’s been the hardest and the most humbling thing I’ve ever had to do. I am a different human being. I am more appreciative of the opportunities I have and for the people that train with me.”
“I really understand what it’s like to be the underdog, it’s been a humbling experience but at the same time it’s really built me as a human being and it’s really put me in a different place when it comes to conditioning and when it comes to my motivation and my strength in this fight.”
Shamrock seems irritated, when the subject of his motivation comes up, having seemingly been asked ‘Why keep fighting, at your age?’ perpetually: “I’m going to live this thing as long as I can live it. I’m going to enjoy this thing as long as I’m allowed to enjoy it and I wish that people would enjoy it with me.”
Shamrock’s opponent, Kimbo Slice, is experiencing similar circumstances, having not competed in MMA since 2010, after a brief foray into pro boxing. Kimbo reviewed that absence from MMA made the heart grow fonder, and he missed competing inside the cage: “I’ve always had love for MMA. I was tempted to throw a few kicks and takedowns in boxing. Now that this opportunity came, I have the love for the training and the passion to fight.”
Kimbo is no spring chicken and, at 41 years old, knows the time for a final major MMA run is now-or never. I asked Kimbo whether the fight with Shamrock was a true ‘unfinished business’ one-off, or if he had true aspirations on a lengthy run with Bellator: “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to fight this guy again if the opportunity ever presented itself. [But] this is not a one-time deal with me. We’re going to see how long we can go with it. I’m in it for the long haul.”