(Yep, this should give you an idea of how old Herschel Walker is. When he started in the NFL, Sports Illustrated cost $2.25 an issue and the publishing industry only had a handful of fonts to choose from.)
Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I hear a company or organization proclaim that something they’re doing is totally not a gimmick, that’s about the point where I become convinced that it is absolutely a gimmick. And yet, Strikeforce wants us to believe that their signing of 47-year-old former NFL star Herschel Walker – a man with no professional MMA experience – “isn’t a publicity stunt.” Just like it probably has nothing to do with all the attention the UFC has garnered by putting a bunch of former NFL players on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Just a coincidence.
But in a press release sent out by Strikeforce this morning, Walker, who is expected to compete at heavyweight, says he’s headed to AKA to train with their team of monsters, and he seems to think that he has valuable fighting experience to draw upon, even if it isn’t in MMA:
"I’ve been training for several years. I would play college football games on Saturday and then compete in martial arts tournaments on Sunday after church I’m now looking forward to opening up another chapter in my life and to competing in MMA… I will go in there and test myself against any 20 year old," said Walker. "I know there will be naysayers and I’m fine with that. I want to prove to people who sit on a couch and don’t do anything but criticize other people that, if you’re a true athlete or martial artist, you’re not old until you can’t get up and walk around anymore. MMA fighters are said to be some of the best athletes in the world, my plan at the age of 47 is to show the world I am still one of the best athletes as well.”
First of all Herschel, I’m sitting in a nice leather office chair right now, not a couch. Second, there are really two ways to look at this, depending on how much of a negative jerk you like to be.
When a former star in another sport thinks he can take up MMA as a post-retirement gig, there’s something a little insulting about it. He’d probably never consider trying to re-enter the NFL at 47-years-old, and he has actual professional experience at that. That could make fans feel like Walker thinks of MMA as some form of celebrity boxing. It isn’t. Just ask Jose Canseco.
Then again, the guy’s a great athlete, so who’s to say he can’t give it a go? Sure, he won the Heisman Trophy in 1982(!!!), but he also competed in the OIympics on the two-man bobsled team in 1992. In other words, he’s aged well and has proven that his athleticism is relevant to more than just football. And if he gets crushed in the cage, maybe that will serve as a reminder that this is a real sport and not some local basketball league for you to use as a workout regimen once your playing days are over. In that sense, this could end up being a positive gimmicky, publicity stunt.
But let’s not kid ourselves, Strikeforce doesn’t really believe that he’ll be a fifty-year-old heavyweight champ after a few years of seasoning. This is at least 50% publicity stunt. A 47-year-old man with no pro fights simply does not have a long and storied career ahead of him, and Scott Coker knows it. But when the UFC is the big show in town, adding former NFL players (after they’ve gotten a few fights under their belts) to an already stacked heavyweight division, you’ve got to do something to show you’re still kicking.
Better get in the gym, Bo Jackson. Strikeforce has a contract waiting for you.