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Interview: MMA, UFC and WWE star Ken Shamrock on getting paid for fighting instead of getting into trouble

By Chris Bailey

As the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’, many may not be aware of Ken Shamrock’s softer side.

But in an interview with MM ahead of his talk this weekend at Tedx Salford, the UFC hall of famer discussed his passion to change the lives of underprivileged kids –  just as his father did for him many years ago.

Born in Georgia as Kenneth Kilpatrick, Shamrock grew up fatherless, penniless and spending most of his time on the streets, so the road to fight-night fame was a troubled one.

“I think that with any kid growing up there are some issues you have to deal with – anger, hurt, depression, drugs, whatever it is you turn to vent that anger, that frustration through your life,” said Shamrock.

“Mine was basically physical. I beat people up, I hurt people, I stabbed people and I got stabbed. I ended up getting myself into bad situations, and navigating through those times was very difficult when you don’t understand how.”

Shamrock’s fortunes changed when he was 13, after bouncing from group home to group home, he met the man who would change his life forever.

Bob Shamrock – who eventually adopted Ken – was renowned for working with tearaway youths.

Even though neither the state nor the law had managed to tame the troubled teen, a stint at Bob’s ‘Shamrock Ranch’ opened up a whole new world that took a while to sink in.

“[On the street] you become accustomed to the way you live, you find ways to live. You do things that you need to do, and then you get to a point where you see something that’s different like my father’s home,” the 48-year-old said.

“It was a beautiful million dollar home – satin, silver, pewter goblets, pewter plates.

“Most people would assume the cow came home, but the reality is that when someone isn’t used to that kind of stuff you’re kind of afraid of it.

“My thought process was that I wasn’t going to be there long and I’d steal whatever I needed so that when I did leave I had some money in my pocket, because that’s just the way it was – the way I was built.

“I didn’t understand all that stuff, to me it was like being on the moon. Other people would say “wow dude, you’re so lucky,” but I didn’t know how to file it.”


IN THE CAGE: Ken Shamrock against Tito Ortiz at UFC 40

But under the tutelage of his father, Shamrock managed to unearth his potential by finding new ways to vent pent-up aggression that had been simmering since birth.

“My father showed me a way to develop my anger into something positive.

“I went into wrestling, (American) football, then some boxing, and was able to generate all that hurt and frustration that I felt over the years.

“It always got me into trouble when I was angry, but now all of a sudden I’m getting myself into positive situations.

“The feeling I used to get when I hit someone hard was to run and hide, but now when I was doing that in football everyone suddenly started cheering and I thought, ‘Wow, OK.’

“I started to understand I could still have this anger and temptation to destroy something, but it can still be in a positive direction.

“He (Bob Shamrock) showed many other kids how to draw, or sing, or rap, or act, or whatever it took for these guys to pull themselves from the pain and hurt they had felt earlier in their lives into something positive.”

Now after a career that has seen him harness his rage to become one of the most hallowed fighters of all time, Shamrock feels it is time to give back.

He is heading a project in the Northern Nevada desert that will eventually house and care for over 200 at-risk children.

“My priority now is turning all the fighting I’ve done over the years and all the stuff that I’ve done into a business,” said Shamrock, who also spent three years in the WWE.

“With that business I want to be able to work with children and change the world, helping
with the way that kids’ programmes are being done today.

 “I came from a group home, then I became a peer councillor, then basically ran the house,
and then I ended up owning a group home myself.

“But then I was too busy with the professional fighting, but while fighting I still visited homes in Puerto Rico, went to boys and girls clubs, donated money to kids programmes – so I always knew that I would go back to what my father taught me.

“My father always said that I’d been blessed and I had a second chance in life, and had an opportunity to turn around and pay it back maybe even more than he was able to.

“That’s something I look forward to and I’m not going to do it overnight, but I want to make sure that when it is done that it’s going to be something that will make a difference.”

Shamrock thinks there is no overnight solution for a troubled kid, either.

“It’s tough because if you try to talk to a kid from a rough area they’re going to look at you and laugh and say ‘what do you know?’, and that’s the truth,” said the fighter.

“You can’t have someone come in and say ‘you really need to do this and that you don’t understand, I do’ – it’s hard to say something to a kid like that when the mum’s laying on the couch half passed-out and there’s no father and he’s got to work, or he’s got a baby sister at home.

“There are so many variables that we don’t know about a kid living in a bad area and I was in that – I know.

“There’s nothing you can do accept for live each day trying to do the right thing, trying to make ends meet and trying to find some hope, at the end of the rainbow, that something down the road will come up and you have an opportunity to free yourself of these issues.

“But that’s the reason I do what I do, I can give these guys some opportunities and some ideas to be able to step away from all that.”

Shamrock will be speaking at Tedx Salford on Sunday, October 21 at the Lowry Complex – for more information, visit www.tedxsalford.com.

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