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More than 22 years after they clashed at UFC 1, MMA legends Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock will square off for a third time on Feb. 19 at Bellator 149. The inaugural matchup in 1993 went to Gracie, who submitted Shamrock in 57 seconds. Their rematch nearly two years later was billed as a “Superfight.” It wasn’t. After an uninspiring 36 minutes that consisted mostly of Shamrock pinning Gracie to the floor, the bout was declared a stalemate. “He didn’t try anything; he just held me down,” Gracie says. “He came in for the draw.”
For decades, Shamrock lobbied for another rematch, claiming last-minute rule changes before both fights put him at a disadvantage. “[At UFC 1] they took my shoes away, but I had never not worn shoes,” he recalls. “It felt like my feet were slipping and unbalanced.” And at UFC 5 when he was informed prefight of a 30-minute time limit, he had a theory: “I thought, ‘They’re protecting themselves because they understood how good a shape I was in.’ The rule changes have always stuck in my head, and I’ve wanted to get another fight so I could think, ‘You guys tried, and you lost.’”
Despite MMA fans yearning for a Gracie vs. Shamrock 3, it never came together. And when Gracie retired in 2013, it seemed as though it never would—until last November, when Bellator MMA announced that the two UFC Hall of Famers would clash in the cage one more time. It was a victory for Shamrock, whose persistent goading had finally paid off.
Gracie, now 49 years old, hasn’t competed since 2007. To shake any ring rust, he began doing two-a-days last November with emphasis on grappling, standup, and strength and conditioning. Non-MMA specific training has relied mainly on bodyweight exercises to improve core strength, balance, and endurance.
“I’m a grappler, so I’m not going to exchange firepower standing up,” he reveals. “I train standup to understand what’s coming to me. My game plan is to choke him out.” Shamrock, who is 2-8 in his last 10 fights, has also made adjustments since prep started. “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” believes training with familiar faces—former UFC fighter Guy Mezger and his adopted brother, Frank Shamrock—will provide him an edge come February. “Mentally, I have direction and determination just from having these guys around,” he says.
Shamrock declined to provide specifics about his training, preferring to keep his opponent in the dark. (He did provide a sample workout from a past training camp, see below.) Diet- wise, his meals consist of chicken, steak at least twice a week, fruits and vegetables, and pasta and rice (getting “good energy” from starches).
With a sound strategy, the right diet, and unwavering confidence, Shamrock is convinced he’ll be the victor when the final bell tolls at Bellator 149. “Do I believe that I’m better than he is, have all the skills, and that I should win the fight? Absolutely.”
Tale of the Tape
The Grace Conditioning Workout
A Sample Workout from Shamrock