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Herschel Walker's mixed martial arts debut on Saturday drew a great deal of reaction. I have your thoughts on the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner's performance, and much more, in the latest edition of the MMA mailbag.
I read your article on Herschel Walker's debut in Strikeforce with surprise and disgust. I have seen you at the events, the fighter Q&As, and the weigh-ins over the last several years. I know you follow the sport, so was surprised to hear you defend the choice to let Walker on the Strikeforce card. Walker is a 47-year-old (who has admitted to some mental health issues) with zero experience in the sport. Not only did he get his first fight in a major promotion, he did so on the main card. There is no doubt that Walker brought more eyes to Showtime for the fight. And there is no questioning his PR tour across the country. But to praise his involvement is, to steal a line from you, short-sighted. Walker turned the event into a freak show, a circus side show. The NFL may be able to get more eyes on it if George Clooney played QB. He may have even done it in high school but they wouldn't go that route because it actually detracts from the sport. Walker on a major MMA event does the same thing.
I'll stand by my take, Richard. Unlike George Clooney, Herschel is a world class athlete and was in remarkable condition. And he wasn't fighting anyone he shouldn't have been fighting. He was matched commensurate with his experience and ability. Clooney clearly wouldn't be able compete in the NFL; Walker, though, proved he could. I see nothing wrong with him fighting, since he's clearly qualified, and putting him on the main card helped attract more attention. That's always good for MMA.
I watched the Strikeforce card and still feel that as long as they do those ridiculous ring entrances, allow Mauro Ranallo to sound like a WWE commentator, and have sideshow "interest" fights like Herschel Walker and Cris "Cyborg" Santos, they are just not going to get to the next level as a promotion. Sure, they get people to watch the event, but does ladies MMA and fights like the Herschel Walker one, which make up a good percentage of the televised show, have staying power? I am just not sure it brings people back. If they keep doing those, it just seems to lose some credibility, especially with Mauro Ranallo acting like he was seeing Couture in his prime when Walker was beating on a guy who did not even want to be there. On another note, Showtime blocked out 3 hours for the event, and with the Diaz fight ending so early, there was no reason not to show a few of the undercard fights.
David, my opinion on the Walker issue is well known. And Santos is a legitimate fighter who fought a quality opponent. Why would there be an issue with showing her on the broadcast? I'm not crazy about the entrances, but I don't see what harm they do. As for Mauro, well, that's another story. I agree he far overhypes everything and loses credibility in the process. If you say everything is great, pretty soon, no one believes you when you say someone is great who actually is.
I was thoroughly impressed with Herschel Walker's performance last night. Yes, he was a little stiff in stand-up, but he showed the discipline in his learning the technique of the sport that made him a Heisman Trophy winner. Go back and watch that fight again. Rookie technique, I'll agree, but he is just as good in MMA as he was in football.
Port Jervis, N.Y.
I was extremely impressed by Walker, Andres. My point is he's a flat beginner in MMA and has a long way to go. Given his age, he'll never get there. He was among the best in the NFL and could have been in MMA had he begun training long ago. He didn't, so his MMA is never going to match his football. But I do think if he had started training at 15 or so, he would have been one of the all-time great fighters.
Let's be honest: Walker had a hand-picked opponent, he didn't look impressive, and it took three rounds to get this bum off the screen. Herschel no doubt is in great shape and a consummate professional. But he lacks and will continue to lack the skill needed to compete seriously in the MMA. It's funny how, for months at a time, writers bashed Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley for being "fake wrestlers" and gave them absolutely no props for their backgrounds and their debuts but are quick to jump on Herschel's bandwagon after his training program and his unimpressive fight.
I'm not sure which writers bashed Lesnar and Lashley, but it was not me. I gave each more than their share of props. After UFC 87 (Lesnar's second UFC fight), I said he'd win the world championship. And if you read my column on Lashley before his fight with Wes Sims, you'll note I praised him repeatedly. The reason people are excited by Walker is the thought of how unlikely it was that someone 47 with no experience could come into this sport and win. No matter how much of a bum you believe Greg Nagy may have been, he was a professional fighter with a win to his credit. Clearly, he was hand-picked, which I noted in a column before the fight. But it wouldn't have made sense to pit Walker against Fedor Emelianenko in his first outing, would it?
Walker looked good, but I've never seen a fighter just not throw any good, hard punches and then stall for the next three rounds. It looked like the Strikeforce management told that guy (Greg Nagy) to throw the fight and Walker just didn't know it. What do you think? I watched the fight again and I don't think he even tried! Oh well. Kevin, I love your work and thank you for taking time to read this.
Steve, clearly, the fight wasn't fixed. Nagy was chosen because he was smaller, weaker and far less athletic than Walker. That is true. You forget that Walker had only trained for nine weeks, though. What do you think Fedor looked like after nine weeks? I can guarantee you, he didn't look like the guy he is now. You have to keep his performance in the proper perspective.
What a shill. MMA is no better than wrestling. We have seen this before with coverage of wrestling in the 1950s and 60s. If anyone thought that the powers that be in the UFC would let Walker lose or that the outcome was in doubt before the "match" is awash in self delusion. This isn't sport, it's entertainment and should be put on the same pages as the red carpet pictures from the Grammys and the latest Paris/Britney/Lindsey escapades. You do yourself, real sports and the business that is Yahoo a disservice by even covering this spectacle as if it were sport. How can we take this site seriously if you continue to act that people see this as a sport?
Sydney, at least have a semblance of a clue before you trash. This was a Strikeforce card, not a UFC card. Walker was a big story because of his background and we covered it appropriately. No one forced you to watch or read the coverage.
Pleased with Lashley
I am pleased that Bobby Lashley won on the Strikeforce event and I think he is definitely a serious contender. The commentators were discussing the next possible match for him, but no one mentioned Brett Rogers. I think Rogers-Lashley would be a great fight and would give good credibility to whomever won. To your knowledge, is anyone discussing this possibility? Is there anything on tap for Rogers? In this fight, I think I would pick Lashley, but only because he could probably take it to the ground quickly. I think very few fighters are going to stay standing with Rogers.
Josh, I don't believe a Rogers-Lashley fight is being considered yet. Lashley isn't ready for that level of competition at this stage. It's time for him to step up the competition and fight someone with better credentials who is serious about fighting, but I don't think he's nearly ready yet. I agree he'll be a contender one day, but he's still a developing fighter in my opinion.
The Strikeforce commentators (Mauro Ranallo, Steven Quadros and Frank Shamrock) have a long way to go, especially in their calling of women's fights. As Cyborg was delivering some foot stomps, Ranallo made the remark "She must not like the color of her nail polish." Sorry, but if the viewing audience is to take women's MMA seriously, the commentary team should act professional towards it.
I couldn't agree more, Scott. Santos is a professional and she deserved better. It was a joke, but an ill-timed one.
Next for Kimbo?
There hasn't been much talk of Kimbo Slice since his fight with Houston Alexander in December. What a lame duck fight that ended up being given the potential. Kimbo did seem to come quite a ways from the brawler that he was once considered. He seemed to have learned fairly quickly, and stepped up his ground game. He has taken his lumps, and my question is, what is the next step of the Kimbo Slice saga? Who will he fight next? Who should he fight next?
He's going to fight "The Ultimate Fighter" cast mate Matt Mitrione at UFC 113 in Montreal on May 8. That's an appropriate step in Kimbo's career.