I admire Brock Lesnar, and I also have a tremendous amount of respect for Herschel Walker.
The former Dallas Cowboy has been in the spotlight after winning his second MMA fight this weekend with a first round TKO of Scott Carson on Saturday night. Walker improved to 2-0, but has drawn both praise and criticism for his venture into mixed martial arts.
It also prompts questions like the following: Is he a more legit MMA fighter than Lesnar? Notice, I didn't say better (credit my bosses for throwing stories like these my way). That changes the entire discussion right there. By legit, I mean is he someone who's dedicating himself in the gym with his conditioning and training and seeking to be a successful mixed martial artist. I'm not talking about legit as in saying their talent is at the same level.
I already have my own opinion, but I want to hear yours. Here are five reasons Walker is more legit, and five why he's not:
The reason this has received so much attention is because Walker is a former Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most recognized players on America's Team. Former lesser-known football players and basketball players have become fighters, and it had zero newsworthiness.
Walker is in the same place that a college baseball player would be entering low-A rookie ball in the minors: He and Lesnar are still both fighters, but they are just at different stages in their development. Again, we're not debating whether Walker is better than Lesnar. That's stupid. The question is is he a more legit fighter?
If you judge him based on his dedication and time spent trying to improve, I'd say Walker is legit, but the challenge for him will be to develop his skills and gain respect.
Walker is just 2-0, and he's not fighting elite-level competition.
He could improve, and get better, but he has a long way to go before he's competing against the best in the UFC.
As much as some MMA fans loved the idea of Kimbo Slice, that was nothing more than a circus stunt.
Walker is dedicated, wants to improve and is approaching the sport seriously.
"When I first started fighting, everybody thought it was a joke, but there's no way anyone could come into this sport as a gimmick," Walker told the San Jose Mercury News. "I'm working every day to become better. I'm still not great, but I've improved a lot since my first fight."
His attitude and approach has drawn praise from others who cover the sport.
"He deserves a debt of gratitude from all fans of mixed martial arts," said Luke Thomas of bloodyelbow.com. "He's fighting the right opposition at the right time in his development and doing so while giving the sport a boost to the right audience. That's more than any of us can say of virtually any fighter competing today, irrespective of weight class or organization."
If there's anything that is extremely impressive about this, it's the fact that Walker may be one of the most gifted, well-conditioned athletes to ever come along. Besides football, he's also ran track, done bobsledding and now is into MMA.
He told the San Jose Mercury News that he ran the 40-yard dash last year in 4.38 seconds.
Walker has been able to develop and train with some of the best fighters in the world.
The Los Angeles Times reported how Walker got to help Cain Velasquez (pictured) train for his heavyweight title bout in October with Lesnar, then the UFC heavyweight champion. Velasquez won.
"I got in the ring a little bit with Cain," Walker told the newspaper. "I think the only way I helped him was for him to try and figure out how he was going to beat Brock up, so I gave him a chance to beat up on me. When I got in the cage, I could hear (American Kickboxing Academy instructor) Javier (Mendez) say, 'Cain, don’t hurt him.'"
There's a small window of time for Walker to compete being 48 years old.
"Too bad we'll never know just how good Herschel Walker could have been. At 48 years old, even the seemingly ageless Walker admits that he doesn't see much of a lifespan for himself in mixed martial arts," writes Mike Chiappetta of mmafighting.com.
"In Walker's case though, you can see he has it. For a young fighter—figuratively speaking, of course—he has good instincts, power and poise. And even at his advanced age, his athleticism is still quite obvious."
Both Walker and Lesnar are physically gifted athletes. Most know about Walker's background, and Lesnar was also a four-time All-American and national champion wrestler at the University of Minnesota.
Lesnar is a former UFC heavyweight champion and is still regarded as one of the top heavyweights in the world. He's also one of the coaches on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
By the time Walker even has a chance to match and surpass Lesnar's credentials, he'll be closer to retirement age and probably qualify for the early bird special at Luby's.
Walker was praised for his performance on Saturday, and others have noticed his skills.
Bryan Lopez-Benchimol of fighters.com pointed out how aggressive he came out against Carson to begin the fight, but took an uneccessary high kick. It didn't phase him, and Walker connected with a right to Carson's head.
"Though it’s unclear where Strikeforce could properly place the aging Walker, he is a novelty to the main-stream fans, however he is a novelty that has now proved his meddle as a true mixed martial artist, and even at 48, he has proven to be one the best pure athletes in the sport," Lopez-Benchimol wrote.
Walker has developed a passion for the sport, and has dedicated himself to becoming a quality fighter, which should be respected and applauded. But his pursuit needs to be kept in perspective, and it's unfair to measure him against someone like Lesnar, who is much younger and has already invested more time and been successful against better competition.