Herschel Walker knows that his journeys into the cage as a mixed martial artist have an expiry date.
For the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner, it has never been about becoming the heavyweight champion; no matter how his second professional fight goes on Saturday night, that will not change.
“I know I won’t be doing this that long,” offered Walker from the American Kickboxing Academy gym where he is preparing for his Strikeforce bout with Scott Carson. “I will continue to train with the guys, but how long I will fight? Who knows? I’m taking it one fight at a time.
“I’m not a true fighter; this is not something I can say I’m going to be doing for the next seven years or the next five years; I know that’s not true. So I just take it one fight at a time, one training day at a time, and it will always be left up to the trainers and the fighters in the gym. We got a lot of great fighters in this gym that I spar with and if they tell [the AKA coaching staff] that Herschel’s not cutting it right now, I’m not going to fight.”
One of the greatest athletes ever, Walker is a physical specimen to this day, two years shy of reaching the half-century mark. In addition to his decorated collegiate and professional football careers, Walker was a member of the 1992 Olympic bobsled team and an accomplished track star. Those of us old enough to remember the show also know that Walker won back-to-back seasons of ABC’s American Superstars as well. It is those credentials Walker hopes to combine with his recent athletic adventure into more important, and less dangerous, role outside of the cage.
“I want to make this a great sport. I want to be a mouth-piece for this sport. I would like to be an ambassador in a sense that I can bring this sport more into the mainstream because these fighters deserve it. The reason I wanted to get into this sport is I thought they were some of the best athletes in the world, and I think I have good credentials to say that.
“At the same time, this is not the brutal sport that everyone makes it out to be,” continued Walker. “I would love to bring this into the mainstream, and I would love to be able to help these guys in the fight world get paid a little more money, as well as get insurance for these guys and make this a great, great sport because I think they deserve it.”
Having taken more than his fair share of hits while amassing nearly 14,000 combined rushing yards between the USFL and NFL, the former Celebrity Apprentice contestant has a good idea about what makes the violent nature of football a mainstream staple while MMA has been forced to claw an scratch for a mere mention for quite some time.
“I think it’s just the blood,” estimated Walker in his smooth, Southern drawl. “I think the blood that is in the ring; I think people think it’s brutal because they see the blood, and that’s where I’ve been preaching and talking to them, telling that that boxing and football are worse. Boxing and football are a lot more dangerous than MMA fighting.”
In addition to wanting to help educate the mainstream about the truths of mixed martial arts, Walker would also like to be involved in bringing a “Fighters Union” into the sport, and feels that it is only a matter of time before such an entity exists.
“The money is starting to really do well in this sport and eventually we’re going to have to do it,” suggested Walker, who believes that the process wouldn’t be as arduous as some may think. “You’d have to get a lot of the fighters to agree to it, and you’d have to get the people who own the promotions to agree to it as well, but with the amount of money that’s being made now, and more television getting involved, I’m not sure why it’s not happening.”
Saturday night, Walker will meet Carson in a bout that was originally scheduled for December, but was pushed back after Walker sustained a cut above his eye in training. While many -myself included- were critical of Walker’s placement on the main card in his debut last January, the University of Georgia alum has an alternate, more positive way of looking at the positioning of his fights.
“Greg Nagy and myself, we were two green fighters; we were just starting out, but we got a lot of eyes looking at us when we went into the cage, and because of those eyes looking at us, it helped bring a lot of new people to this sport. A lot of new eyes that are friends of mine that watched that fight are now huge MMA fans.
“Whether you’re watching Herschel Walker or watching anyone, you’ve just got to give the sport a chance; don’t judge the sport on something you might have heard or your perception of it, because I think if you watch this sport, you’ll see [the technique involved].”
While his immediate future stepping into the cage on Saturday night in hopes of earning another victory, Walker is already doing an outstanding job at the role he’s hoping to fill after he concludes his time as a fighter.
Ambassador Walker can speak on the sport’s behalf anytime.