Remember that it was just a month ago or so that Strikeforce stunned the world of MMA by landing the services of Fedor Emelianenko, whose name I almost spelled correctly on my first try. Fedor is generally considered the last, best contender to Brock Lesnar, who’s currently chewing up UFC and spitting it out. That Emelianenko opted for Strikeforce and the EA MMA game instead was, to say the least, a shock.
So with that head of steam and UFC still reeling from Rampage Jackson eschewing a fight for a role in the A*Team movie, Strikeforce is set for the ol’ kill shot here, right? Like, here’s where they sign another big name and really establish themselves as equals, right? So… how about a retired football player in his late 40s, a full 12 years after his last game in the NFL? Wait, wait, there’s more. Let’s give him a history of mental illness. Perfect! Yes, Strikeforce have signed the Herschel Walker… and they’re so serious about this.
The former NFL running back will immediately enter an 8-to-12 week training camp with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
Strikeforce director of communications Mike Afromowitz said it’s too early to speculate when the 47-year-old will make his debut with the organization but it will probably be sometime in 2010.
“This isn’t a publicity stunt or a gimmick,” Afromowitz said. “Herschel Walker has tremendous athleticism, and he has always shown that off the gridiron. He’s accomplished a lot in his life and in the world of sports. His accomplishments speak for themselves, and we hope that his athleticism can transition into a successful MMA career.”
What Afromowitz says is partly true; Walker has always been one hell of an athlete. Even Vince Dooley, notorious for never playing freshmen, had to get Walker on the field ASAP at Georgia, at which point this happened:
As of a few years ago, he was still doing 1,500 pushups and 2,500 situps a day, and there’s no reason to think he’s stopped either aspect of his daily regimen. So yes, he is still quite athletic. He’s also a 6th degree black belt in tae kwon do, so he has some experience in hand-to-hand combat.
But still. Walker is not an MMA fighter, and Strikeforce has already ceded that he won’t be ready to go until next decade (yes, we know that’s only 3 1/2 months away, but it’s fun to use misleading facts).
Or for some context, remember Johnnie Morton? He’s also an amazing athlete, and he jumped into MMA at the age of 36. The result? Knocked out in 38 seconds by some no-name, then suspended indefinitely for not taking a post-fight doping test. And he was more than a decade younger than Walker when he got into the sport.
Look, Walker’s going to move a lot better than most people in their late 40s, and perhaps Walker will be successful for a fight or two. But if this isn’t a publicity stunt, then there is no such thing as a publicity stunt.