The man is a lightning rod. Always has been, always will be. Jose Canseco's ability to speak his mind, added to his off the charts athleticism made him a worldwide star when he played baseball from 1985-2001. At 6-foot-4, 240-lbs. Canseco still stands out in the crowd. Now that baseball and his history as a performance enhancing drug user are behind him, the 45-year-old Canseco has become a bit of a star in social networking circles. His demands for an MMA fight against Herschel Walker blew up two weeks ago on the web. No shocker, Canseco was chided, mocked and greeted with anger from fans of the sport.
"I get criticized for anything I do," Canseco told Cagewriter. "If I breath wrong, I get criticized ... no matter what I do negative or positive. If you look at our world, it's a world of critique."
We caught up with Canseco while he was playing softball at the Big League Dreams softball complex in Las Vegas, and even amongst a few hundred fans and softball players, he drew plenty of attention. Most people consider Canseco to be off the grid now, yet he already has over 325,000 followers on Twitter. The former slugger said it's proof of his drawing power and that MMA's biggest promotion, the UFC could use him.
"If you really think about it, we're getting more coverage than all of their UFC fighters combined, especially on Twitter."
On sheer numbers, Canseco is correct. Two of the UFC biggest names, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, only boast 84,000 followers combined. That's a low number in comparison to Canseco especially consider Liddell just finished a stint on Dancing With The Stars and Ortiz was a cast member during a season of Celebrity Apprentice.
"I think the UFC could be expanded that way. They're in a win-win situation because they're going to get a lot more fans."
Most people view this as a publicity stunt trying to piggy back off of Walker's amazing journey to a professional MMA win at the end of January.
"You're wrong. I was doing it before Herschel. I think it would be a perfect match. We are individual athletes that were great at what we did. Why can't we transcend it to another arena. It's more of a celebrity, entertainment type deal. It's a lot of fun. Why not do it?"
MMA is violent and very dangerous if you're not matched up properly. It's also a sport that leans on virtues like respect, discipline and hard work. Canseco is 1-1-1 in three exhibition boxing matches and lost his only professional MMA fight, but he says this is different. He's never been healthy. He claims, he feels better after suffering from knee and shoulder ailments, and that he'll be a different fighter with three months of training under renowned MMA guru Cesar Gracie in Northern California.
"Why not do it if you're capalbe of doing it? I was a professional athlete, the best baseball player in the world at one point. The need to stay young, the need to stay active, the need to compete [are all reasons]. I think you want to try every sport possible just to experience life."
Canseco said his agent Mike Keck spoke with Walker's handlers and they said the former NFL star would not fight him. Canseco believes it's a negotiating ploy and there's a "great possibilty" of a fight, one that fans will want to see.
"We would not go in there unless we're properly trained. With [Gracie's] training, with them behind you, with their support, you're gonna see a real good fight."
Canseco again claimed that he did meet two weeks ago at a San Jose restaurant with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. Walker fought under the Strikeforce banner and it's most likely the only promoter he would fight for if he did eventually step into a cage against Canseco.
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