It didn’t take UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock long to figure out what he wanted to do when his fighting days were over.
“I probably fought longer than I should have but I just loved it,” Shamrock explained. “I just couldn’t get through the training any longer. I had to step away but I wanted to stay involved in something I helped build.”
If it seems Shamrock has done every kind of combat sport, it’s because he has. From professional wrestling to the mixed martial arts of UFC and everything in between , Shamrock has been at the top of each stop in his career. So when his days as the main event ended, he decided to create the main event as a promoter.
“While I was fighting and right after, I listened to what the fans wanted,” he said. “I listened to what the media said and to what I wanted and we found it.”
Enter Valor Bare Knuckle fighting, a combat sport that looks familiar but is something totally different.
“Fans always said, ‘Stand up’ when we were on the mat in UFC, so we did that,” Shamrock said as he laid out the difference in the rules of Valor Bare Knuckle. “I wanted to make it fan friendly, so we took down the ropes and the cages to make it a better visual experience.”
And, as Shamrock sees it, a side benefit is fighters can’t just grab and clutch when they’re in trouble and lean on the ropes. They’ll have to fight their way out.
“It’s faster,” Shamrock explained with a quick confidence that comes from actually having been in the ring. “We’re doing something to change the game a bit. The NFL changed the rules to get more scoring in the game. Baseball brought in a clock to speed it up. We’re changing this sport to make it faster with footwork and striking as the emphasis.”
At first glance, Valor Bare Knuckle sounds barbaric, like a street fight. Having been a part of a fledgling UFC, Shamrock equates the start of Bare Knuckle to that. As fans became more educated about UFC, they saw the technical prowess it takes to get to the top of the game. He thinks the same about Bare Knuckle.
“Boxing is dying because of the clinching and scoring they use. Guys get in and get out and can win without ever getting touched. We’ve eliminated that,” he explained. “They put gloves on to protect the hands not the head. We’ve eliminated that to put emphasis on footwork and striking. And we got rid of the ropes so fighters have to fight.”
Shamrock insists that when fans see the technique required to land blows and defend yourself at the same time, they’ll appreciate the sport even more.
“People looked at UFC like it was barbaric,” he recalled. “Then they got educated. People don’t understand the technical part of bare knuckle yet. We’re hoping to educate the fans. If you land a punch you get rewarded for it.”
Testing this new combat sport brought some surprises, even to a veteran like Shamrock who competed across all disciplines.
“The fighters loved it and it was unbelievable how fast it was. It all comes from my experience,” he added. “I think all fighters are attracted to this. Guys who are more counter punchers and interested in just scoring points might not be interested. But true, real, tough fighters, guys who love fighting, they love it.”
For their first fight card, Valor Bare Knuckle brought in some recognized names to catch fans’ attention. VBK 2 at UNF Saturday night will be a little different.
“This bill is building our own stars,” Shamrock said of the expectations of their second card with twelve fights scheduled. “It’s only our second and part of a long term deal. We have three more already on the books. We’re building our brand. We’ll build at our pace and let people see it, and get educated about it. They’re going to love it.”