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About the Author
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My Life as a Champion MMA Fighter
By Frank Shamrock, Charles Fleming
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2012 Frank Shamrock and Charles Fleming
All rights reserved.
My earliest memories are of living under a train trestle. Our apartment in Redding, California, was in a big building, and the trestle was the most enormous thing you can imagine — huge and loud, and right over our heads. The trains would go by and the whole world would fill up with a mechanical, quaking sound.
Redding is the star of Shasta County, sitting in the Central Valley of California, the rich agricultural flatland that is scooped out of the middle of the state. Located exactly halfway between the Mexican and Canadian borders, and wrapped around the Sacramento River, it was a kind of dumping ground and very diverse. It was all poor people, mostly whites and blacks and some Latinos, and everybody was living on welfare. My family must have stood out — my white, redheaded mother and her gang of Mexican-looking kids. My real dad was long gone.
My mom, Lydia, was a hippie chick, a flower child from Los Angeles. She had grown up in a strict family of Jehovah's Witnesses. Her father was an engineer, a straight-arrow sort of guy, but her mother was a little wild. She liked to drink and party. So she left her husband and ran off with an alcoholic named Nelson. My mom went from being a rich, private-school girl from a stable and normal home to living in a trailer park with two addicts. Her family and father were not Jehovah's Witnesses at all, but her mother, Jackie, got obsessed with the religion and ran off with a church elder. He, in turn, was especially mean to her. They were fanatical about the religion, or what they called the "truth." After that, Lydia and her brother, Mike, spent their youth in the back of a station wagon while their mother went door to door preaching the word. Their new home was a single-wide trailer with a built-on addition for her brother.
She met my dad at a Jehovah's Witnesses church assembly. He was Mexican. His name was Frank Alicio Juarez II. His family were all Jehovah's Witnesses, too, and they lived in Lancaster, out in the desert north of Los Angeles. Frank was good-looking, very dark with Mexican-Indian features, and he worked with his hands. Lydia had already had my older brother, Perry, and I am pretty sure was pregnant with my sister Robynn when she got together with Frank. I never knew anything about their father; he was gone before Frank came along.
Soon Lydia was pregnant with me. I was born on December 18, 1972. Nine months later, my mom and Frank had another child, my little sister, Suzy. But soon after that, Frank left, too. My mom was a young single mother, without any job skills and without any higher education. She had started having kids when she was sixteen, before she even finished high school, mainly so she could leave her mom. So now she was living on welfare with four children under six years old in a crummy apartment building under a train trestle in Redding, California.
For a while she had a relationship with another man, whom I think she married. But pretty soon he was gone, too, and it was just us again.
My memories are cloudy, very scattered but happy. We were always together — me, my mom, and my brother and sisters. We didn't mix much with outsiders, but we had each other. We liked being together and we always had fun. I remember going to a preschool surrounded with manzanita trees. I remember playing under the train trestle with Perry. There was a creek there, and a kind of wild area on the other side. After a while we found out there was a golf course past the overgrowth. We started sneaking onto the golf course to find lost golf balls and turn them in for money.
My mother had always been a pretty happy person, and even in our meager circumstances we were a pretty happy family. She always had food on the table, and we were always doing things together.
I was a happy kid, very energetic and physical. I was also smart. One day I was going to kindergarten, then the next day I wasn't. I don't know exactly what happened, but my mom had come to school to talk to the teachers, the next day I was in first grade. Somehow I had already learned all the stuff you were supposed to learn in kindergarten. I don't remember learning it. I just remember knowing it.
I liked learning, and I liked being in school. But I wasn't a popular kid. I had no social skills. Maybe because my family was close, I had no training in being with unfamiliar people. I was awkward. I had bowl-cut hair, and I wore goofy, used pants. I was kind of chubby, too, until I was seven or eight. I came from the poor family with the hippie mom. I wasn't ashamed of any of it. But I felt different, and I was aware that I was outside the circle. I just felt a little off.
Then my mom met Joe.
I think they met at a bar, some local dive in Anderson. Joe was personable and energetic — very energetic. He was popping and snapping and moving a mile a minute, and my mom said, "This is the man for me."
For a kid like me, with no father and no man around and no male role models, Joe was supercool. He was always moving, always talking. He got things done. He was good with his hands and with machines. He had been in the military, gone to Vietnam, and he had learned to work on engines. He had an appliance-repair business and a utility truck with tons of boxes and drawers built in the sides. It said JOE'S APPLIANCE SERVICE on it.
So when we found out we were moving in with him in Anderson, I was happy. We left the apartment building under the trestle and moved into a nice house on a nice street, just like a regular family. Joe had money, and he had a job. He had a daughter, Michelle, and she seemed nice. We were all going to live together in this four-bedroom house with a big backyard, on a street with mature trees, near a school and a park. It was a huge step up for my family. It seemed like we were going to be OK.
But pretty soon it seemed like maybe we weren't.
Being around Joe was exciting at first. He was cool. He smoked Camel nonfiltered cigarettes. But we soon learned he was a very controlling guy. He liked things his way, and his way was strict. There was no cussing allowed. You couldn't watch TV without permission. You couldn't watch TV during the day. Even my mom couldn't watch soap operas — he hated them. No eating between meals. No taking food that wasn't yours.
He and my mom never entertained, and we never had people over to the house. I wasn't allowed to bring friends home. I wasn't allowed to invite someone to spend the night. I wasn't allowed to have a sleepover at someone else's house, either. We didn't do that. The family was the family, and you stayed inside the family, and you never let anyone inside the family.
If you weren't doing what he wanted, he'd let you know. If you were hanging around and bugging him, he'd push you across the room and tell you to get out. Even when he was being affectionate, it was kind of violent. He never hugged anyone, or touched anyone with kindness. But he'd hit you in the side of the head and say, "Go on — get out of here." That was his way of showing affection.
If you did something wrong, he was the one who'd punish you — with a belt. The punishment was very controlled, too. It was event-based. You did something wrong, you were going to get swats with the belt.
There was other abuse, too. He had learned to hate certain kinds of people in Vietnam. So when he wanted to demean you, he'd call you names. You were a "fucking idiot," or a "fucking jerk." If he was really mad, you were a "fucking nigger" or a "zipperhead." That was about the worst thing you could be. With me, he was often angry because I was dirty, or I had lost something, or I had gotten into trouble at school. He'd call me those names and spank me.
I was scared of him, all the time. He made me feel small and weak. He'd sit across from me at the table, with his hands under the table, and ask me questions. If he didn't like the answer, he'd whip his hand out and slap me upside the head. It was like some sort of interrogation torture. You never knew what was the right answer, or the wrong answer, or when you were going to get smacked next. But you had to stay at the table and answer his questions.
If I had done something really bad, he had other punishments. Sometimes he'd make me kneel in the hall with my nose against the wall. I'd stay there for hours. How long depended on what I'd done — like eaten a piece of fruit from the kitchen that wasn't mine, or left some dirty clothes on the floor. He would also check on me periodically to see if my nose was on the wall. I would always listen closely to see if I could hear him walking on the carpet. If I thought the coast was clear, I would rest on my heels, a big no-no that would bring more time in the hallway or a trip to the closet.
Sometimes the punishment was worse. There was a linen closet down the hall. Joe would make me go down there and take all the towels and sheets out of it and put them on the floor. Then he'd make me climb up on the shelf and squeeze in there, and he'd lock it from the outside. Then he and the others would do something fun, like watch a movie on TV or something, and leave me locked in the closet for two or three hours. Sometimes I fell asleep. When I woke up I didn't know where I was, and I felt scared.
Sometimes the torment was just psychological, and you didn't even know what it was for. One Christmas, I wanted a foot scooter. I really wanted it. I bugged my mom, and bugged Joe — please, please, can I have it? Will you buy it for me? Joe finally lost his temper and told me to shut up about it or I wouldn't get anything.
When Christmas came, I could see that he'd bought it for me. It was all wrapped up, but I knew from the shape what it was. I was dying to open it, but Joe told me I had to go last. So I waited while my brother and sisters opened all their presents. I was dying with excitement.
Finally it was my turn. I grabbed the present and ripped the paper off. Inside was an old vacuum cleaner. Joe had wrapped it up and made it look like the scooter I wanted, just to trick me. He saw the look on my face and started screaming with laughter. I'd never seen him laugh so hard. Everyone else started laughing, too. So I started screaming, too, and crying. I tried to run away. Joe grabbed me. He told me to calm down. He said my real present was in the garage. He actually had bought me the scooter I'd been dreaming about. But now I didn't want it. I didn't want anything, especially anything from him. I was so mad and so hurt that I didn't want any Christmas presents at all.
Joe fought with my mom, too. I didn't realize it at the time, because I didn't know anything about the world, but he was an alcoholic. He'd get tanked up and come home to fight. I never saw him drinking, because he did it outside the house, but I saw the effects. He'd come home and start needling my mom and yelling at her. She was a very mellow person by nature. But after a while, he'd get under her skin and she'd lose it. She was always a very meek, mousy person. But she had a low emotional threshold when it came to communicating her feelings. She'd be really quiet, and then she'd explode. They'd start yelling and screaming, and then they'd start throwing things — plates and glasses and furniture. They'd smash the place all up, screaming the whole time. It was scary. It freaked me out to see my mom like that.
But all this punishment and controlling didn't work the way Joe expected. I started getting into trouble. I was restless and energetic, and I had no idea how to behave. If I saw something I wanted, I took it. I started stealing stuff from people. I'd take something from a kid's desk, or a kid's coat. This wasn't just a habit. It was a more like a tactic. I had grown up poor. All the kids I knew stole stuff. You had to — it was the only way you were going to get stuff. Nobody had any money to buy anything. If you wanted something, you had to steal it. So I stole. I took what I wanted. I stole things from my mom and from Joe. I stole things from my brothers and sisters and from other kids in the neighborhood. I'd just see something I wanted, and I'd put it in my pocket.
But I wasn't a very smart thief. I'd forget I had stolen something, and I'd leave it in my pocket where my mom could find it, or I'd give it to somebody as a present. I'd steal one of my mom's rings and give it to a girl at school, or I'd steal a knife from Joe and give it to some boy in my class. Sooner or later, someone would wonder what a five-year-old kid was doing with a ring or a knife. They'd ask me, "Hey, where did you get that?" and I never had an answer. So as soon as I'd steal something, I'd get into trouble for stealing it. I'd get punished — spanked or whipped with a belt, or made to kneel in the hall for an hour, or locked in the closet for a whole night while the family had pizza and watched a movie on TV.
Race affected my life too. When we lived in Redding, we were surrounded by a racially mixed, lower-income group of people. There were black people and brown people and white people, all living together. Everyone was on welfare. No one had any money. Lots of families had only one parent. So we all fit right in.
But Anderson was a little hick town primarily composed of white farmers and agricultural people. My brother and sisters and I were the only brown kids anywhere — on the street, in the park, at school. I was really aware of being different, of being the wrong color, of being the wrong social class. I had always felt like I didn't quite fit in anywhere outside my family. Now I felt even more off.
Maybe that's why I started getting into more trouble.
It was the only thing exciting, that I was in control of, the only thing that provided that kick of electricity and feeling of freedom. When I was nine or ten, I started stealing things from stores. I'd shoplift a piece of candy or a little toy. Sometimes I'd get caught, and I'd get yelled at. My mom and Joe would have to come to the store, and then they'd yell at me, too. I'd get punished in one of Joe's usual awful, creative ways. But after a while Joe got frustrated because the punishments didn't make me behave, so the punishments got worse. I got caught shoplifting something, and he sent me to live in the garage for the night. Not in a room in the garage, just in the garage, sleeping on the concrete floor with a blanket and a pillow. It was cold, and the floor was hard, and it smelled bad. I hated it. But I kept getting into trouble. So I kept getting sent to the garage. I stole something, the police were called, and I got sent to live in the garage again.
I didn't keep getting into trouble because I was stupid. Sometime in grade school someone noticed that I was a smart kid — probably because I got in trouble again, and someone was trying to figure out what was wrong with me and had me tested. I tested really high. They may have thought I was getting into trouble because I wasn't being challenged in school, so they put me into the GATE program for gifted and talented kids and started teaching me more challenging material.
That didn't stop me from getting into trouble.
Around that time, I found out about sex. It started with my sister Robynn and my stepsister, Michelle. We just started fooling around. It was kind of innocent. We didn't know what we were doing, or why. We were just curious and experimenting. No one had explained anything to me about sex. I had no information. I knew about the Bible, and Adam and Eve, and the Jehovah's Witnesses stories. I knew there was some weird overtone about that. Somehow sex and religion were connected, but I didn't know how. I only knew sex was dirty and bad and you weren't supposed to do it — but I didn't know what it was.
We didn't get caught. We didn't get in trouble. I don't remember feeling too weird about it. But I knew it was something you didn't talk about. One afternoon, when I'd already been punished for something and sent to stay in the garage, Joe came in. I'd gotten into trouble again at school. Joe came in with a belt to give me a whipping and caught me jacking off.
Now he was really mad. He called me a fucking nigger and threw me out of the house. I had to go sleep under a tarp in the backyard. I wasn't allowed to come into the house except for breakfast. I wasn't allowed to use the bathroom. My new "room" was on the ground, under a tarp hung on a clothesline in the backyard.
I don't remember the first time I drank alcohol. But I learned that I liked it — a lot. Alcohol made me feel different, kind of numb. I had drunk a few times in the park with the Redding boys. By the time we were living at Joe's, I was really into it. I started stealing alcohol from my parents or from other kids' houses. I'd steal a bottle of something and get drunk in the backyard, under my tarp. I started getting neighborhood kids drunk too, especially the girls. I'd get them drunk and we'd fool around, like I'd fooled around with Robynn and Michelle.
Excerpted from Uncaged by Frank Shamrock, Charles Fleming. Copyright © 2012 Frank Shamrock and Charles Fleming. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Mickey Rourke vii
1 Childhood 1
2 Ward of the Court 17
3 Shamrock Boys Ranch 25
4 Jail 45
5 The Lion's Den 59
6 Japan 67
7 Pancrase and the Roots of MMA 75
8 Going Solo 91
9 American Champion 111
10 Going Hollywood 129
11 Feuds and the Fight Business 147
12 Fighting Baroni, Ortiz, and Cung Le 171
13 Fatherhood 195
14 Retirement 213
15 Fight No More 223
16 Coming To Terms 237
17 The Martial Way 245
What People are Saying About This
"Frank's recounting of his journey gives us the hidden details of a truly unique life-warrior. Frank is raw, candid, and uncensored as he exposes himself and leaves no stone unturned. Uncaged will shake you to your core." —Carlon M. Colker, MD, CEO, Peak Wellness, Inc.