Herschel Walker and Strikeforce: Not All Attention is Good Attention

E. Spencer KyteSenior Analyst IJanuary 14, 2010

Let's get one thing clear, right off the bat.

See that picture?

That is the only reason why a 47-year-old with either zero amateur or professional experience in mixed martial arts is being given an opportunity to compete with Strikeforce.

Herschel Walker is without question an incredible athlete, an extremely unique story, and, by all accounts, a tremendous human being.

Additionally, Walker is a sixth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, is in peak physical condition, and has maintained the freakish workout program that made him such a specimen in his football days through his foray into MMA.

After a recent stress test on his heart, the doctor conducting the procedure proclaimed Walker was "47 going on 22," as his results were highest of anyone the facility had ever tested.

Today, Walker is making a number of appearances on ESPN, including First Take and Scott Van Pelt's radio show.

Without question, the sport of MMA is being discussed more in the mainstream media right now thanks to the impending debut of Walker, but is that a good thing?


If the current media attention were a sitcom, Walker's name is in the title, while MMA is simply playing a two or three story guest-starring role.

Having the sport discussed in the mainstream always has positive elements, and this instance is no different.

Fans will be drawn to the sport by the participation of a legendary figure like Walker, and the discussion of Strikeforce's upcoming event in Miami will undoubtedly pique the interest of some with no television plans for Saturday, Jan. 30, and a subscription to Showtime.

That said, it seems like the only time MMA becomes a topic of interest is when something historic happens (UFC 100), someone does something stupid at something historic (Brock Lesnar...thanks so much!), or a person whose name is already established decides to try their hand at this MMA stuff all the kids are talking about.

If this were actually about MMA as a whole, we wouldn't have to get excited about the sport being discussed by Walker.

Current stars like Randy Couture, Georges St-Pierre, and countless others would be routine guests, with the sport getting attention simply for being exactly what it is: the fastest growing sport in the world.

While many champion the current media blitz as another victory for the sport in the never-ending battle for mainstream attention and acceptance, victories only come after the battle, and Walker hasn't even stepped inside the cage yet.

One of the risks of having new eyes on the sport through Walker is the fact that he's never competed in MMA before in his life.

I have as much MMA experience as Herschel Walker: We're both 0-0...and I don't see Strikeforce rushing to get me in the cage.

If Walker happens to get defeated by his hand-picked opponent, Greg Nagy (1-1), what then?

Countless eyes that wouldn't have been paying attention in the first place will just have witnessed the biggest story in the sport—in their questionable opinions— get beaten by a guy who doesn't even qualify as a journeyman.

Now, by no means do I believe Walker is going to lose this fight. Strikeforce is way too smart to put a guy with the drawing power of Walker in a position to get beaten.

This is not EliteXC.

Regardless of whether Nagy reprises the role of Seth Petruzelli in Miami, the story coming out of Strikeforce: Miami will start, continue, and end with Walker.

All those outlets that would have otherwise not paid the event a moment's notice will continue to focus solely on the former NFL'er, failing to give the more accomplished and worthy competitors on the card more than a brief mention.

I can see the stories now:

Former NFL superstar and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker made his Mixed Martial Arts debut Saturday at Strikeforce: Miami.

The two-time All-Pro took on journeyman Greg Nagy and was victorious/defeated in his MMA debut. (Continue for two or three more paragraphs.)

Several other fighters competed; some won, some lost.

While it most certainly won't be that bad, the fact that the bulk of the attention being paid to Strikeforce: Miami focuses on Walker, while the two title fights headlining the show receive little to no mention whatsoever confirms my belief.

To the mainstream media, this isn't about MMA.

If it were, the names Nick Diaz, Cris Cyborg, Marius Zaromskis, and Marloes Coenen would show up in each and every article, interview, and radio broadcast.

But they don't.


Because it's about Walker, not MMA.

When the sport gets the attention it deserves, my excitement will verge on annoying.

But until then, I'm not going to throw a parade and proclaim "We've made it!" because a story about a football player trying his hand at MMA made it on ESPN.

Writer's Note: Shout-out to my man Brian Oswald and his piece "Herschel Walker and Strikeforce: Significance to MMA" for the inspiration.


Originally posted at FiveKnuckles.com