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“Hamlet in Tights” & Rickson: A Talk With UFC Founder Art Davie (Part Two)

“Hamlet in Tights” & Rickson: A Talk With UFC Founder Art Davie (Part Two)

Yesterday, Caged Insider began a series of articles spawning from our recent talk with original UFC founder Art Davie, whose “Is This Legal?” hits bookstores next month. Today, Davie describes his experiences with two of the legends of the day: Ken Shamrock and Rickson Gracie.

Davie actually described early UFC star Ken Shamrock as “Hamlet in Tights” in a recent interview for MMA Junkie Radio.

“I hope I didn’t come too off disrespectful there because I like Ken personally,” Davie notes. “He was really a decent and good man in a lot of ways. He was a very emotional guy, this powerful Alpha-male — and he looked the part. He was one of three sharks in the original tournament. The rest were goldfish, looking at it as a match-making standpoint!”

“Shamrock was a complicated guy,” Davie continues. “His dad, Bob, knew that. If something upset him, he could go off on a tear, and that was always the difficulty with him. But he had the heart and soul of a champion – a really competitive guy. ”

Ken Shamrock weighs in for a UFC bout.

Ken Shamrock weighs in for a UFC bout.

Asked how the two were introduced, Davie replies: “I had done my homework on the puroresu (Japanese pro wrestling) movement. I was looking at Pancrase, which were just putting out their first shows in March of 1993, right before ours. I was aware of the nature of work vs. shoot, but I did not know Ken Wayne Shamrock. I get a call from a young athlete by the name of Scott Bessac, a heavyweight studying under the Shamrocks at the Lion’s Den in California.”

“He called me up, answering the ad,” Davie continues. “Finally he stops me and says listen, you really should be talking to my teacher, my coach. So I looked up Ken, Scott talks to Ken, and finally I talked to Ken. After talking and doing some research, I thought, this is very interesting. I asked him right up front, I know you’re doing some works in Japan. Some are works, and some are shoots. I know the one you did with Dan Nakaya was a shoot. But you’ve done plenty of works. I said, you know this is not a work, right?”

“He said, I’m ready. But he really hadn’t done his homework. He never got over that bout. The draw he got with Royce at UFC 5 was not satisfying. He was still agonizing over the fact that Royce choked him. I’m sure to this day he’s wishing for a third engagement.”

According to Davie, another legend of the day who was unhappy after the original UFC was Rickson Gracie, Royce’s older brother. Davie notes that he wanted to feature Rickson in UFC, but it wasn’t to be.

“At the ball after the show, Rickson was there in a tuxedo with his wife Kim, and his son Rockson,” Davie begins. “He was miserable. Kim kept telling him that Rorion had screwed him. You let him screw you! That should be your $50,000! Why was it Royce?”

Royce is the baby,” Davie continues. “Royce lived in a room above Rorion’s house. He didn’t have a checking account or a credit card, and didn’t have a girlfriend. He’d get a couple of $20 bills from Rorion on a Saturday and get him a snack, do a little surfing, and flirt with the girls. He was the guy who babysat Rorion’s kids. He was 26 going on 16.

Rickson Gracie corners an MMA bout.

Rickson Gracie corners an MMA bout.

“Royce was under tremendous pressure. Rickson in his corner made a big difference. But I tell the story in the book. We had a run through that Friday, where the fighters would come to the arena and be taken by the production people through the routine that night – go from the dressing room to the Octagon and so on. The last team to go through the drill was the Gracies. It’s Rickson and Royce in the Octagon. I didn’t see this; I was in the truck talking to some technical people. But Todd Hester, who was editor and publisher of Gladiator magazine, told me about this. He said, Royce lost it. He was on his knees crying, sobbing — and Rickson was comforting him, holding him, reassuring him. I had been kept away from Royce all week. They were locked up in a room, they wouldn’t let anybody see him.”

“Even the night of the event, they wouldn’t let me in the dressing room. They said, Arturo you can’t come in. We’re getting Royce ready. That afternoon he must have just felt a little overwhelmed, and Rickson got him settled down.”

By now, Davie had already helped market the Gracie family’s first Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructional tapes. Their relationship was lucrative, as Davie explains:

“Rorion was already selling the “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action” VHS tapes through several martial arts magazines. I did a direct response ad campaign for his ‘Basics of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu,’ and later I did Intermediate and Advanced editions. That brought in a fortune for Rorion. I pointed it out in the book: my commission, that was two-and-a-half percent of sales, amounted to a $21,000 check for one month alone.”

After UFC 3, Davie met with Rickson and family (including his father, Helio) to bring the “Gracie Family Champion” into the UFC fold as a fighter. But, money is what kept it from happening.

“Royce was willing to step down, and they (the Gracie family) were going to bring Rickson in. We sat down, and to make a long story short, Rickson wanted one million dollars. I said, we don’t have one million dollars. We’re not paying anybody that, including ourselves. This isn’t boxing. He said, that’s what I want. You and Rorion are making a lot of money, and that’s what I want. Then the old man spoke up, in Portuguese which was translated to me, and he said I did this back in the day not for money but to defend my honor, and defend my martial art. You’ve lived too long in America, you’ve become a… commercial person. Rickson didn’t say another word. He smiled at everybody, shook hands with me – didn’t shake hands with Rorion – and left. That was the end of it.”

“Years later,” Davie continues, “I write an article for Gladiator magazine, that we wanted Rickson. We wanted to bring him in. But he didn’t want to come. I think he was a smart guy. After Royce made that statement to the Japanese press, “you think I’m good, but my brother’s ten times better,” Rickson became very desirable in Japan, where they’d match him up with some professional wrestler he could beat with one arm tied behind his back.”

Rickson went for the money,” Davie sighs. “Personally, I think he saw what I was doing – I was bringing in wrestlers early on, I had seen a 30 minute tape that Rorion had of Rickson rolling with Mark Schultz, the Olympic gold medalist over at Pedro Sauer’s academy in Salt Lake City. It took Rickson Gracie 30 minutes to get Mark’s arm. Schultz weighed 182 lbs, about the same as Rickson. Here I am bringing in Randy Couture, Mark Kerr, Mark Coleman, and I think Rickson realized the jig was up. He could get fight these pro wrestlers and the Japanese would eat it up.”

“That’s basically what he did. But I wanted him in.”

Next week, this series wraps up with part three: some final thoughts from Davie about his UFC creation and today’s MMA product.

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