Former Georgia running back Herschel Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner, has decided to make a move into the sordid world of mixed martial arts.
I’m not one to doubt the athletic talents of this guy, who after all rushed for 5,259 yards in his three-year college career, was an All-American in track (top 100m time, 10.32), a sixth-degree blackbelt in tae kwon do and a finalist as a bobsledder in the 1992 Olympics.
But that, apparently, isn’t enough for UFC President Dana White:
Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star Herschel Walker drew a harsh rebuke from the most powerful man in the sport, UFC President Dana White, who called the 47-year-old’s foray into MMA, “ridiculous.” But on Tuesday Walker fired back and said White doesn’t understand the kind of athletic talent he has.
“Who ever made him the guy to measure athletic talent?” Walker said on ESPN First Take. “I don’t think Dana knows anything about athletic talent. He knows about fighters, which is different, but I will say this: He’s running a show right now with heavyweights and I’ll put dimes to donuts, all the heavyweights on his show right now I will beat. That’s pretty easy to say. I always tell people put their money where their mouth is. Dana says I’m so old? Why doesn’t he step into the ring with me?”
I’ve seen the MMA fighters up close (full disclosure: I used to be the PR director for the UFC) and I see no reason why Walker shouldn’t or couldn’t compete. Sure, he’ll have a learning curve technique-wise, but athletically there is no comparison between Walker and the vast bulk of the fighters, many of whom are corn-fed country boys with college wrestling backgrounds. Now, I haven’t seen Walker lately and 47 is not exactly a prime age to get in the ring, but I would bet that he has the athleticism and stamina of a much younger man.
I think having a name like Walker’s involved in MMA is good for that sport. Quite a few people would tune in to see him fight. If he does well, then it might create an influx of already-recognized athletes into the sport, which would help draw interest from mainstream sports fans. If he gets his butt kicked, then it demonstrates that MMA is a challenging sport for even the most elite athletes.
It’s a win-win, as far as I can tell.