Shamrock shot not just luck

NATALIE DUNLEAVY -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:32 AM ET

When former three-time UFC champ Frank Shamrock told him he'd made it, Ottawa's David MacMillan stood in tears.

After three difficult years of intense training, MacMillan went from living in his car to becoming a professional mixed martial arts fighter.

"It's like Wayne Gretzky asking you to play hockey," joked MacMillan. "You're going to say yes."

By moving to San Jose, Calif., to train with Shamrock and his team of professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, MacMillan will have the opportunity to fight in leagues such as UFC, Pride, K1, and TKO.

"If he wants to, I'm going to make him a world champion," said Shamrock of MacMillan.

This opportunity, however, did not come easily.

When MacMillan first moved to Ottawa three years ago, his goal was very clear.

"I never saw myself as a person to go to college and get a job," he said. "I just saw myself doing MMA. It's a beautiful sport."

MacMillan started training at a local club, but soon set out on his own. The image of Rocky Balboa comes to mind: A poor fighter training with what he's got for his chance of becoming a champ.

MacMillan sprinted through the soccer field next to his house, ran the stairs at the Nepean Sportsplex arena, and weight trained with his garage set-up.

MacMillan eventually found a trainer. Daniel Guillemette from NX Martial Arts, who specialized in Vale-Tudo, trained him and became a father figure to the young fighter.

"I begged him to train with me," said MacMillan. "When no one else would train me in Ottawa, he was the only one who would."

"Talent without discipline won't get you anywhere," said Sandy Pembroke, the current WKA World champion and coach at Nomad Kickboxing. Pembroke has been sparring with MacMillan to improve his striking abilities in preparation for his training in California.

"Dave's one of those rare athletes that has talent, but the work ethic of an untalented fighter. It's why he's gone so far so quick."

MacMillan knew he had to be at the top of his game. And, according to his peers, he is.

"To see him work with a bag on the ground would bring fear," said Guillemette. "Just to hear the torque -- it's scary."

MacMillan realized it was difficult finding fights without being part of a club. That's when the resumes went flying to MMA schools in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

When Shamrock offered him a shot, MacMillan scraped together enough cash to make the flight down.

"I already had it in mind that come hell or high water I wouldn't pass another opportunity up," said MacMillan, who knew he was about to face a difficult test.

The first two days were spent testing his conditioning and on the second day, he faced a difficult four rounds fighting professionals in submission wrestling, boxing, muay thai. On the fourth day, it was full MMA.

Although MacMillan felt he did not do well, he was not disheartened.

"They're not trying to see how good you are, but how much heart you have, and if you'll quit," he said.

After a tough fourth round, MacMillan was asked to step out of the room. Ten minutes later he walked back in with a concussion, and was asked to move to San Jose to live and train with the fighters in preparation for professional MMA fights.

"At that moment there, I knew I made it." said MacMillan.

But there is much work ahead. Although he is already being scheduled for two pay-per-view fights in Hawaii and California, Shamrock already has training plans.

"More than anything his desire and effort to be on the team is what got him there," said Shamrock. "We're all just regular guys doing extraordinary things and I think he'll fit in well in that group."


Videos

Photos