Polish strongmen aren’t the only athletes trying to make the jump into mixed martial arts. Here in the US, we’ve got our own MMA newcomer who’ll be making his professional debut on a January 30th Strikeforce card. Herschel Walker, former NFL football superstar has signed a multifight deal with the promotion and has been training in San Jose, CA with the American Kickboxing Academy. Walker will face Greg Nagy(1-1) in his MMA debut.
If you followed college or pro football in the 1980’s or early 1990’s you know who Herschel Walker is. He won the Heisman Trophy while at the University of Georgia and went on to have an excellent career in both the USFL and later the NFL where he spent his best years with the Dallas Cowboys. At the time of his retirement in 1997, Walker had 8,225 rushing yards, 4,859 receiving yards, and 5,084 return yards. At the time, his 18,168 total combined net yards was second on the NFL’s all time list. He still ranks 7th today.
Unlike many NFL players, who become somewhat sedentary after years of abuse in pro football Walker is still an impressive physical specimen. In 1992, he made the Olympic 2 man bobsled team and would go on to finish 7th. He nearly made the Olympic team in track (sprint relay) as well. He’s appeared on the Donald Trump reality show ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and still does 2500 sit ups and 1500 push ups every morning. He’s become a fan of mixed martial arts in recent years and in September 2009 signed his deal with Strikeforce. Though Walker has competed in mixed martial arts tournaments and is a sixth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, he’s only recently begun to train in MMA.
Immediately after the deal with announced, UFC President Dana White began to publicly rant about what a disgrace it was. As so often is the case, this was complete hypocrisy on White’s part since his own reality show ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ featured a couple of former NFL players with limited fighting experience. Walker has no delusion about his place in the sport, but is up for the challenge. He’ll even be donating his fight purse to charity.
So how will Walker do in MMA? Obviously, coming into the sport at age 47 he’s not going to become a championship contender–even if he is in phenomenal condition for a man half his age. For the role Strikeforce is using him for–as a ‘special attraction’ to supplement other matches on their fight cards–there’s no reason he can’t have some success. He’s an elite level athlete that competed in one of the toughest and most physically demanding of team sports in his pro football days. Assuming he takes his training at AKA seriously–and based on his track record there’s nothing to suggest he won’t–he could become a credible mixed martial artist. There are fighters that enter the sport every day without Walker’s athleticism and successful background in a very tough professional sport. You’ll never see Herschel Walker among the top ranked heavyweights in the sport, but you won’t see him embarrass himself either.Tweet
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