By Gary Singh
I RECENTLY wound up at mixed martial arts legend Frank Shamrock's studio in south San Jose near Oakridge Mall. Shamrock was the five-time UFC Middleweight World Champion before he retired undefeated. After a mishmash of other endeavors, he returned to his lifeblood, mixed martial arts. In 2005, he opened his first academy where he trains his students in kickboxing and submission wrestling.
Now that it's a legally sanctioned sport, mixed martial arts is generating all sorts of hoopla these days, and on March 29, Shamrock battles his crosstown rival, Cung Le, at the HP Pavilion. At a press conference last week, Shamrock walked right out of a sparring session and immediately hammed it up for the cameras.
"My new goal is to be a superdelegate," he quipped. "I have no idea what they are, but they have 'super' attached to it."
Reporters asked him about the crosstown rivalry and upcoming battle against Le at the Pavilion.
"It's my arena," he declared. "In my opinion, it's a fight for the entire city. Call it a predator rivalry, but only one guy can be the King of San Jose. I'm the one who brought mixed martial arts to San Jose in 1997, and as far I'm concerned, that should be me."
Fair enough, but aside from all the fighting, the martial arts and the theatrics, Shamrock has a colorful assortment of characters working in his entourage, and he inspires them all.
Tony Demaria, Shamrock's boxing coach, is a former rock singer and was one of a small city of rotating members in the legendary San Jose band Daddy-O, although unfortunately he was not in the lineup that performed on the Gong Show in 1979. But as a boxing coach, Damaria, 59, is a lifelong San Jose dude and has nothing but rapturous admiration for Shamrock as an athlete.
"He's got a lot of dignity," Demaria said of him. "He's very, very honest, and of all the guys I've ever got to work with in my life, he's been not only the most talented but by far the most intelligent and very much sincere. All I can sing are the kid's praises. If he was a custodian, he'd still be a superstar. He has super, super, super charisma, and super energy. ... He's just a monster. Whatever he did in life, he would be the very best at. ... He's the Muhammad Ali of mixed martial arts."
Standup comedian Mary Van Note used to work in Shamrock's office and says he even inspired her comedy. She originally posted an ad on Craigslist.com for an office receptionist job and Shamrock answered it himself.
"It totally freaked me out because I knew who he was and I was a fan," she explained over the phone following a recent performance at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland. "At the time I don't think they were really ready to hire somebody, but I was very adamant about getting that position, so I kind of showed up, sat around and kind of bothered them about it. And they ended up giving me the position. I became his assistant."
Van Note is now known throughout YouTube-land for alternative and wonderfully foul-mouthed comedy videos featuring X-rated language that isn't suitable even for this newspaper. And it all began at Shamrock Marital Arts Studios on Winfield Boulevard.
"I actually edited my first few videos on his computer," she said. "He would let me stay after work and use his camera. So he was just totally cool about letting me, you know, do my comedy stuff."
There you have it. My vote goes to renaming HP Pavilion Shamrock Arena. What do you think?