Going into his fight with Phil Baroni, current Strikeforce middleweight champion Frank Shamrock felt the pressure of being the underdog for the first time since facing a young up-and-comer named Tito Ortiz. Now Shamrock reverses that role as he is slated to be the heavy favorite when he faces Cung Le on Saturday night in the EliteXC and Strikeforce co-promoted event in San Jose, Calif.
For Cung Le, facing a legendary MMA figure like Frank Shamrock is the opportunity of a lifetime, but is this title fight too much, too soon for Le, who currently sports a 5-0 professional record?
“If I were him, I wouldn’t have taken this fight for another six months to a year," said Shamrock in an interview with MMAWeekly Radio. “You’ve got to put in some time, get some experience and see some different things in mixed martial arts. I think they rushed him into an ass kicking, but it pays the same for me either way."
Shamrock and Le have known each other for many years, training and working out of the San Jose area. When this fight first appeared on the landscape many former training partners of both Shamrock and Le became vocal about the sparring sessions between the two martial artists.
Shamrock explained his role during the training sessions with Le from years ago.
“Basically I was his sparring partner in his sport, which is San Shou, and I didn’t know anything about San Shou, and he beat me up and threw me around a little bit," he stated. “That’s when I was first making my transition into the art of striking, really getting a grasp on the game."
Since that time, Shamrock has obviously picked up a great deal of skill and knowledge about the stand-up game, and he intends to deliver a rude awakening to Le if he believes he’s fighting the sparring partner from previous years.
“His trainers have been propping him up on this old Frank Shamrock that couldn’t keep his feet uncrossed, and threw power in every punch," Shamrock commented. “I took out Phil Baroni on one knee and no cardio. When Cung Le gets in there and feels what’s going on, I bet you we’ll see the wonderful wrestling repertoire that Cung Le has."
In the fight with Baroni, as Shamrock mentioned, his health wasn’t at its peak, but he promises all is well going into this title defense.
“My knee’s cool, I did all the rehab for it," he said. “It’s 100% so I don’t notice it from day to day at all anymore. Honestly, I’ve never felt healthier. I’ve never felt stronger."
Another compelling storyline going into this bout could be the battle for San Jose as both fighters call the California city home, but Shamrock says there will be no controversy as to who the crowd is rooting for come Saturday night.
“San Jose’s mine," he said with a laugh. “They respect Cung. They love Cung. He’s a good martial artist. But the truth is, I brought the sport here. I sold out the arena, Cung didn’t. Everybody knows me in San Jose. People know of Cung, but everybody knows me."
At fight time, Shamrock has made no bones about the fact that he’s more than willing to stand and trade with Le and he feels that his aggressive style and experience could be the difference.
“His chin is untested, and I’m real good at testing the chin," Shamrock said. “And his heart is untested when it comes down to, you know I go out there like I’m going to die if I don’t win. I don’t know if he’s got that mentality yet. It takes a little while to get that urge."
Shamrock will get his chance to test both Le’s heart and chin Saturday night when the two square off for the Strikeforce middleweight title in San Jose.