Is Herschel Walker good for MMA?
January 29, 2011
At 48 years old, Herschel Walker is set to fight on the Strikeforce card Saturday night. Because of his football celebrity, he has been able to penetrate mainstream media by talking about the fact that he could still play football at his age. Strikeforce and Showtime should benefit from this crossover publicity. But is Walker good for MMA?
Via MMA Weekly:
Herschel Walker isn’t trying to sell himself as a legitimate contender to the heavyweight crown. He knows all too well that he’s still very ‘green’ in mixed martial arts, and he has a ton of homework to do before he can challenge any of the top competitors in the sport. But Walker’s continued support of MMA has an ability to reach out to people who are not so familiar with it.
This week, Walker appeared on multiple national shows including ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption and The Dan Patrick Show talking football, and then MMA. For Walker’s part, he understands MMA and even sold the sport stating that it is safer than football. Even if mainstream sports media picked up Walker’s comments about the ability to play in the NFL, he still brings up the fact he is in MMA.
Via MMA Fighting:
You could argue that Walker is similarly as valuable to Strikeforce as he was to his college coaches, if only for his PR appeal. He may not have a title run in him, but he does attract a lot of media attention, even if that doesn’t always lead to more attention for Strikeforce.
More from MMA Weekly:
It’s the goal of Herschel Walker to bring an understanding of MMA to the casual sports fan. Some may not understand the purpose of Walker being a part of what many believe to be a brutal competition, but he understands that. And perhaps him being a part of it, then praising it to everyone else that knows who he is, makes him ideal for the position of ‘MMA spokesperson.’
Should Herschel Walker be a spokesperson for MMA? If so, how much would it help MMA?
The argument against Walker may be that he is just a sideshow that Strikeforce-Showtime is using as an overblown publicity stunt. Walker’s longevity in the sport cannot be too long, and his matches are of no significance since his opponents are not contenders either. Shouldn’t a spokesperson for MMA be successful and a contender? A face for MMA can be GSP or Cain Velasquez. Maybe Dan Henderson.
If he is a spokesman for MMA, does it matter that Walker is an athlete crossing over into MMA, and not organically grown in mixed martial arts? Even though Walker has a martial arts background, his athletic fame is from football (and maybe his stint as an Olympic bobsledder). But, unlike boxer James Toney, Walker understands MMA and is not trying to be a “bad guy.” “I want to be a good guy for MMA,” said Walker in an interview with MMA Weekly Radio. Thus, even though Walker may not be as successful in the sport of MMA as a GSP, Cain Velasquez or Nate Diaz, he can still add value through mainstream media and his continued success.
The only drawback for Walker is his age and inexperience in the sport. At 48, it is hard to imagine Walker lasting another 5 years in this sport (Randy Couture aside). Secondly, Walker is as good as his opponent is bad. At some point, Walker may want to step up in class of fighters he will go after. At that point, he may be exposed (e.g., Kimbo Slice).
At this point, Walker is good for Strikeforce because mainstream sports media will cover Walker. Its a good story: a former Heisman trophy winner, in his late 40s, in shape, fighting in a cage. Is he good for MMA? Yes, considering his respect for the sport. His dedication to training and relaying the realities of the sport to mainstream outlets that it is a sport legitimizes MMA as a sport.
Walker can help MMA through the continued education of the sport to the casual fan. If nothing else, it will draw interest from casual fans to tune into a Strikeforce event that may be curious about Walker’s ability.