In the world of North American MMA, one company broke through the main stream first and that was the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. Their first American star was Ken Shamrock, whose “feuds” with Royce Gracie and Dan “The Beast” Severn helped carry the UFC through their first nine events. Shamrock would then go off to seek his fortunes in the world of the WWF, before returning to MMA in 2000 for Pride and eventually the UFC. The wins came harder for this Shamrock during the next four years, and his relevancy hinged on his previous reputation and his ability to sell fights with his mouth. This led to three financially successful battles with Tito Ortiz, all of which that saw Shamrock lose.
Meanwhile, Ken’s adoptive brother Frank entered the UFC soon after Ken’s exit and dominated. His debut was a title fight with Middleweight Champ Kevin Jackson. Shamrock took just 16 seconds to force a submission and take the title. Then in his first title defense, it took him just 22 seconds to slam Igor Zinoviev into unconsciousness (a move that caused career ending injuries to the challenger.) Two more title defenses set up a mega-fight at UFC 22 against Tito Ortiz, who had made a name for himself with his brash trash-talking, most notably starting verbal altercations with Ken Shamrock that had yet to be settled in the cage. Frank stepped up (or so the UFC promotional wing would have you believe) and took up the challenge of Ortiz, who would outweigh him by over 20 pounds by fight time. Shamrock was deemed the underdog, but proved otherwise by tapping Ortiz out near the end of round four with a barrage of strikes. After reaching this high point, Shamrock stunned everyone in the fight game by retiring while still very much in the prime of his career.
By this point, the “brothers” had a falling out and were not training partners, or even friends. By the mid-2000’s, the verbal abuse both men shared against the other made fans and promoters clamor for a “dream fight” between the Shamrock clan. Frank was receptive to the deal and was making moves to return to fighting, but only for big money. Frank’s big return fight was promoted using Ken’s feud with Royce Gracie as Frank took on Cesar Gracie at a StrikeForce MMA event. Frank won the fight via KO in only 22 seconds. A year later EliteXC used the same promotional model as they booked Frank to battle Renzo Gracie. This time Shamrock lost via a DQ due to an illegal strike.
After that fight, the idea of a “brother vs. brother” money match enticed Frank enough to buy a web domain called “BloodBrothers.com” and start to look for promotional partners to help finance a PPV. Frank continued fighting in the interim, beating “The New York Badass” Phil Baroni in a fight that was built by the two men trading promos on Youtube. Ken at this time was ready to make his MMA return 18 months after a pair of humbling defeats at the hands of Tito Ortiz.
EliteXC had just signed a deal that would grant them primetime specials on the CBS network, and with millions of eyes now possibly seeing the product, the company seemed like an excellent prospect to host and promote a “Blood Brothers” PPV. Had this come off, the following was a projected line-up, based on the talent held by the promotion at that point:
Main Event: Frank Shamrock vs. Ken Shamrock
With the two men trash talking on national TV, plus the intriguing additives of both men’s former glories in the MMA world and their familial ties, the fight was seen as one that could draw in the mainstream attention needed to support a PPV model. The fact that Ken was well past his prime could be ignored with the proper hype machine.
Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith
Smith had eleven wins by knockout on his resume by the time he and Robbie Lawler stepped into the cage on CBS for EliteXC’s debut. Lawler had twelve knockouts to his credit. The two men faced off for the promotion’s middleweight title in a match that was expected to be exciting and potentially end with a violent KO. After two and a half rounds of action, Lawler accidently poked Smith in the eye and the fight was stopped prematurely and declared a no-contest.
Given the nature of the finish, the millions who watched it on CBS, and the near guarantee that it would deliver on excitement, a rematch for the title was an obvious possibility for a PPV broadcast.
EliteXC had the infamous internet street fight sensation under contract and were looking to simultaneously find him tomato cans he could feasibly beat, who also had enough name value to be able to sell the fight as being worth seeing. They managed this on the first CBS broadcast by having Slice battle James Thompson in the main event. Thompson had been knocked out quickly in three of his previous four fights, but had name recognition after scoring wins over Dan Severn and Don Frye. Thompson nearly sunk EliteXC’s plans that night by not losing quickly to the tiring Slice, before having a bloody sac on his cauliflower ear explode, leading to a ref’s stoppage.
Whoever EliteXC could have found would probably have exposed Slice anyway – more on that in a bit.
Gina Carano vs. “Cyborg” Santos
Gina Carano was a promoter’s dream as she combined natural beauty with legit fight skills. She had only been in MMA for two years, but was 6-0, with her latest win coming on the national CBS broadcast.
Cyborg was Brazilian born and best known for looking like a walking PED test failure, with muscles in places most girls don’t have places, so to speak. She had torn through seven straight opponents, most of which by knockout. A match up between these two promised a true “Beauty vs. Beast” build, with an upside that both women appeared to be very honed in their craft.
EliteXC also bragged of a roster that included Andre Arloski, Roy Nelson, Brett Rogers, Bigfoot Silva, Jake Shields, “Ninja” Rua, KJ Noons, and Nick Diaz to help fill out the undercard.
Everything Falls Apart
Ken Shamrock left his eighteen month fight sabbatical to accept a fight against unheralded Robert Berry for the Cage Rage promotion. Shamrock lost quickly and decisively. Frank, seeing his “Blood Brothers” concept fading away, publicly bashed Ken for taking a fight that risked their big potential payday. Frank then began to send out feelers to Tito Ortiz to see if he would be interested in a 10-year anniversary rematch of their famous fight. After that Frank went out for a fight with Cung Le, only to end up with a broken arm and a loss, hampering his own dream.
Ken Shamrock was next scheduled to fight Kimbo Slice on CBS in October of 2008. Shamrock was to be the highest paid fighter on the show, per his contract, but a late addition of Andre Arloski placed him in second place. Shamrock demanded the difference and when EliteXC promoters didn’t comply, he reportedly began to angrily warm-up with his partners and caught an accidental headbutt, which opened up a cut that forced him out of the fight. Other rumors stated Shamrock bladed (cut) himself intentionally to screw over EliteXC when they wouldn’t cave into his demands.
Undercard fighter Seth Petruzelli was given the spot as a replacement for Shamrock, after Frank Shamrock was denied his request to step in. Frank was announcing the broadcast that night, and was not medically cleared from his broken arm yet. Petruzelli promptly KO’d Kimbo in under fifteen seconds, revealing the Emperor had no clothes. A few days later Petruzelli offhandedly mentioned that the promoters had asked him to stand and bang with Slice, which created a scandal since that sounded akin to fight fixing, and EliteXC went under.
Undaunted, Frank Shamrock continued to push for the “Blood Brothers” PPV to become a reality. This time the talk was for Kimbo to face Petruzelli in a rematch for the undercard. The PPV hype finally came to an end in April of 2009 when Nick Diaz beat Shamrock soundly at a StrikeForce show. Frank made the call to retire a few months later. Meanwhile Ken continued his career by trying to set up a grudge match with Tank Abbott, but ended up popping hot for steroids and being suspended for a year. Nonetheless, Shamrock continues to drag the corpse of his career into the battlefield, most recently agreeing to a deal with Bellator MMA to finally face Kimbo Slice this June. Shamrock will be 51. Frank remains involved in MMA, doing commentary and reality TV shows revolving around the sport.