By: Jonathan Snowden
A lot has already been said about Ken Shamrock and his pivotal influence on the development of mixed martial arts. Together with Royce Gracie, Tank Abbott and a handful of enduring legends, he helped create a sport that has become a staple of the modern athletic landscape on two continents.
Millions of words have been written (many by Ken himself in his two previous books) and multiple documentaries filmed in an attempt to shed light on a man already living a very public life. Most hardcore fans can list the highlights like a litany:
His background drifting from foster home to foster home before finding love and acceptance at the Bob Shamrock Boy’s Ranch, rise to the top of Pancrase, UFC Superfight title, and WWE Attitude Era superstardom is well documented. Then there was the second run in UFC, saving the promotion before a sudden and seemingly inevitable decline and embarrassing losses to a number of long-forgotten journeymen and freakshows.
With that in mind, it’s fair to ask “why a Ken Shamrock biography? And why now?”
In some ways, I agreed with that mindset. After all, we know the Ken Shamrock story, don’t we?
I thought about that a lot actually. When Ken’s team first approached me about writing a book, I initially declined. Between Total MMA and Shooters, I cockily believed I’d already reported all the pertinent information. What more, I wondered, needed to be said?
How wrong I was.
I placed plenty of demands on Ken and his team. Most important, to me at least, was complete editorial control. Nearly as key was Ken’s help opening the doors to his closely guarded inner circle. Those two things, combined, made this the deepest, most intimate access I’ve ever experienced in a decade of writing about this sport.
The closer I got the more I realized there was a lot we didn’t know about Ken’s life and career. Don’t get me wrong—many of the key events are very public. We know the “what” and the “where” about almost everything that’s ever happened in his professional career. What was missing, all too often, were the “how” and “why.”
It’s this ellipse, the “…” connecting the major events in Ken’s life that make this book something, unlike anything the MMA world has ever seen.
Here’s an example:
Ken Shamrock made a commitment to UFC…and lost the King of Pancrase title to Minoru Suzuki.
See how it works? Everything that matters is hidden in that “…”, the private pivotal moments that bridge the gap between the public story and the truth.
This book will have a lot of truth—about how fighters prepare themselves for combat, what happens when someone who came from nothing suddenly sits on top of the world, and how people born with a gift so often squander it before the twin altars of sex and drugs. We’ll revisit the early wild west days of the UFC, the WWE’s Attitude Era when wrestling was at its debauched peak and return to the Octagon just in time to see the UFC explode into the mainstream.
Along the way, many questions that have plagued fans will be answered:
What happened the night Ken quit in the Pride ring against Kazuyuki Fujita?
Just how real was Pancrase?
Why did Frank Shamrock leave the Lion’s Den?
Was there a good reason WWE pumped the brakes on Ken’s push up the cards?
Did Ken really date his on-screen sister Ryan Shamrock? And what caused their relationship to sour?
Why did he compete into his 50s? And where did all his money go?
Every MMA book I’ve ever read presents the public face of the legend plastered on the cover. It includes the material approved by a public relations guru for mass consumption. It’s not the truth—it’s barely even truth adjacent.
Our book will be different and, like Ken, a little dangerous. Now is the time to get the story right, while the people involved are still around to share it. Ken Shamrock’s legacy will endure, his role in the UFC’s popularity impossible to whitewash completely, no matter how hard certain people try. I hope this book helps explain who he was and how he came to play a major role reinventing the martial arts. He deserves no less.
This biography is scheduled to come out next summer and it’s hopefully the first of many books published by a new company called Hybrid Shoot. The dream is to produce several high-quality combat sports books every year, for hardcore fans, by hardcore fans.
You can help make that dream a reality.
We are taking preorders now, including some pretty unique packages and opportunities to engage with Ken one-on-one. Please come and join us on this journey.
Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report. He believes Jushin Liger is the greatest junior of all-time and refuses to hear other arguments. Follow him on Twitter for the occasional MMA thought and an awful lot of wrestling nonsense.