November 20, 2002
The festivities surrounding UFC 40 got off to a riveting start today as Zuffa hosted it’s official press conference at Studio 54 in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino — and Full Contact Fighter was there to watch the sparks fly! What started out as an uneventful outing quickly turned ugly as UFC legend Ken Shamrock made his way to the podium to address the crowd.
In a seemingly heart-felt soliloquy to the audience, complete with dramatic pauses and powerful hand gestures for emphasis, Shamrock spoke of respect for the sport and its fighters, something he says opponent Ortiz was severely lacking. "I take nothing from Tito Ortiz’s ability," he explained, "but I do have a lot to say about his attitude and what he did to me and the Lions Den… I did say I would not leave the mixed martial arts world until I got in there and got the opportunity to knuckle him up and since that day, Tito Ortiz has done nothing but open his mouth, disrespect me and the Lions Den." Turning to face his opponent for the first time that day, Shamrock concluded with this statement. "On Friday night, at the MGM Grand, right here, when the gate shuts and the bell rings, Tito Ortiz is going to find out what Ken Shamrock is all about. I guarantee that. So if I was you, I hope to God you come ready, ’cause if you don’t, I’m going to beat you into living death." Ortiz, who had rarely taken his eyes off Shamrock from the start, gazed up at his foe before releasing a hearty, extended laugh. "You can keep laughing, you jerk bitch," exclaimed Shamrock, as he motioned closer to the seated Ortiz. "This isn’t the WWF," retorted Ortiz, as heated words volleyed back and forth (including fevered expletives on Mr. Shamrock’s behalf) between the two athletes. As the crowd began to murmur, Ortiz stood to meet Shamrock, just as Shamrock pawed a chair in Ortiz’s direction.
Security (as well as Dana White) jumped between the two men, but this did not stop the free-flowing dialogue. Shamrock was on a roll and Ortiz was racing to catch-up as he chimed in, "I’m going to turn you into a bitch." When Ortiz finally did get his turn at the podium, he immediately thanked the UFC for putting the fight together and offered Shamrock a flower to put on the grave he was going "to bury his ass in." "How about if I shove it in your fucking mouth?" Shamrock answered back. With numerous fighters and their teams watching such unprecedented fodder, it did not take long before they got in on the action as well. Apparently, a few of them were not convinced by the proceedings and began to voice their opinions from the crowd, as welterweight champ Matt Hughes struggled to keep his composure on-stage. Shamrock eventually stormed out of the room, with his Lions Den crew in tow, while the crowd struggled to gain its composure. The whole episode delved into (relatively) uncharted territory for a sport that has naturally nurtured positive fighter interaction in the past. Whether the venom between these two men was believable or not can be argued, but no one can deny that it was certainly entertaining.
Barring the interaction between Shamrock and Ortiz, the remainder of the conference ran smoothly, featuring polite words from both UFC welterweight champion and opponent Gil Castillo, who hopes to pull an upset over the Iowan powerhouse this Friday. UFC President Dana White confirmed that the arena will most likely sell-out around the 14,000 mark — making it the largest MMA event ever held in America. Zuffa’s local push to get the event noticed is clearly plain to see — from the big screen TVs throughout the casino endlessly playing UFC promos to commemorative slot machines and card tables decorated with Ortiz and Shamrock’s mugs. USA Today’s Danny Sheridan, known for his odds-making in numerous sports, was in attendance with his freshly-tallied numbers from that morning’s edition. ESPN crews were there as well, finishing their coverage for an Outside The Lines piece to air December 5th at 7PM EST. With more press expected tomorrow, including reps from the Los Angeles Times among other notable publications, UFC 40 is shaping up to be quite an event.
Ken Shamrock’s speech in its entirety: