From Four-Leaf Clovers to Pot Leaves

Former UFC champion fighter Frank Shamrock is cannabis' newest advocate.

During his glory years, Frank Shamrock made his living beating other people up.

“Cage fighting made me successful,” he laughs “That’s a hard sentence to even say.”

From 1994 to 2010, Shamrock – who is the adopted brother of UFC Hall-of-Famer Ken Shamrock – made a name for himself as a kickboxer and mixed-martial-arts fighter. He retired from the UFC in 2000 after winning a legendary match against opponent Tito Ortiz. Several years later, at the age of 32, the consequences of a physically merciless career caught up to him.

“My back had deteriorated from sports,” Shamrock recalls, “and I also had a genetic anomaly in my back. I was always managing pain and being very aware of it, but when I got to my 30s, it was out of control. I was one of the greatest fighters in the world, but I spent my day on the couch.
That’s when I started really getting into cannabis as medicine.”

For Shamrock, cannabis was a godsend compared to the surplus of pharmaceutical medicines he had been consuming until that point.

“Pharmaceutical pills were killing me,” he says. “It was a night-and-day difference when I switch to cannabis. I jumped ship right away.”

One thing he learned early on was that smoking was only one of many ways to consume cannabis.

“There are so many better ways to consume this medicine,” Shamrock explains, “but when you talk to the lay person, they think we’re all smoking weed. They think I’m smoking weed before my championship matches, and while some people are consuming medicine that way, that is so far from how the science has evolved and what the opportunities are.”

Now, Shamrock is doing his part to help educate the general public about the benefits of marijuana.

His new show, The Bake Out, premiered online on Jan. 25.

Billed as “a new weekly online TV talk show about today’s controversial world of cannabis,” the show stars Shamrock and co-host Robert Ferguson, a celebrity nutritionist.

“He’s a complete naysayer,” Shamrock says of Ferguson. “He’s a former Marine. He thinks we’re all just trying to goof off and have a good time, but that’s what most people think.”

In his weekly efforts to convince his co-host of the benefits of cannabis, Shamrock has an impressive array of guest advocates that range from industry insiders and doctors to celebrities and other former athletes.

One recent guest was former Chicago Bears lineman Eben Britten, who spoke about how he used cannabis for the entirety of his career after discovering the toll pharmaceutical medicines had been taking on his health.

Shamrock says during his own tenure with the UFC, the topic of

using cannabis to alleviate pain and treat ailments was strictly off-limits.

“In the beginning, you didn’t talk about it,” Shamrock notes. “The hardcore athletes knew. The foreign athletes knew. The Brazilians who came in consumed it recreationally and medicinally and had a totally different view of cannabis — but it wasn’t in the general public conversation, and it wasn’t allowed. Now it is because … [people] have realized that it’s not what they thought it was. It’s something different.”

Now, those days are behind him, but his years with the UFC are unquestionably what cemented his legacy as a fighter.

It’s always a difficult decision when a public figure decides to lend their name to something stigmatized, but Shamrock says it was a “no-brainer” to embrace his role as an advocate for cannabis.

“It did take some convincing and positioning and speaking to everyone,” he says.

“My brand is very PG-13/ Disney. I show up, and I beat everyone up — but then I say, ‘Thank you,’ and I apologize. This is way out of left field for my brand, but when you look at what’s happened to this plant, it’s really a social injustice. The end consumer is losing out, because the science is there to take this seed and plant it in your backyard and grow medicine for your family.”

Shamrock believes the time has come for cannabis to move away from the light-hearted stereotypes of stoners smoking weed from novelty bongs and into a realm where the plant is viewed as a viable medical alternative for prescription medication.

“This plant needs a reboot into the modern era,” he opines. “The Cheech and Chong era was great, but it’s a detriment to talking about cannabis as medicine.”

He also draws a direct correlation with the stigma that surrounded his days as a cage fighter with the current status of marijuana’s cultural perception.

“I became successful through martial arts, and that martial art happened to be cage fighting, which at the time was not only perceived to be illegal, but also one of those things you didn’t talk about,” Shamrock says. “You didn’t talk about it. That’s this plant right now. This plant is in the same position. People are experiencing miraculous results with cannabis. I’ve seen it. I can’t unsee it, and I have to do something about it. That’s really what the show’s about.”

Zack Ruskin covers news, culture, and music for SF Weekly.

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