Let’s not lie to ourselves. Herschel Walker is an excellent salesman. The man’s marketability is off the charts when it comes to mixed martial arts, not to mention his universal appeal in other areas of sports.
The Heisman Trophy winner is scheduled to make his return to the Strikeforce cage against Scott Carson on Jan. 29, but prior to this bout, Walker has made his rounds with the media and participated in a gaggle of interviews. For some fighters, this is a bit of a task, but who can blame them? The amount of time it takes to do all the press going into a fight can be a time consuming experience that leaves one with little energy to focus on other things… like a fight, perhaps.
For Walker, however, it’s all part of the business of selling a sport that he has grown to love since becoming a part of it just over one year ago.
Herschel Walker isn’t trying to sell himself as a legitimate contender to the heavyweight crown. He knows all too well that he’s still very ‘green’ in mixed martial arts, and he has a ton of homework to do before he can challenge any of the top competitors in the sport. But Walker’s continued support of MMA has an ability to reach out to people who are not so familiar with it.
The majority of contact sports fans know who Herschel Walker is. If you followed football in the eighties and nineties, Walker is an athlete you heard about and saw highlights of on ESPN’s SportsCenter when Chris Berman still had some hair. This reaches back a generation, so when the 48-year-old Walker celebrates what he feels is the greatness of MMA, people above the sport’s 18-34 age demographic receive it’s exposure.
Walker is ready, willing, and able to advertise MMA and put the sport’s marketing machine on his back. Like countries have ambassadors when visiting other lands, Walker wants to speak on behalf of MMA and all of it’s participants. While learning the nuances of the sport, Walker is willing to take on the responsibility of showing the world beyond MMA fan-hood that what we have here is something to thoroughly enjoy.
“I do want to learn the game,” he told MMAWeekly Radio. “I want to be a good guy for MMA.”
Walker has been a martial artist most of his life, so he understands the discipline and respect that goes into training and competing. The time he has spent at American Kickboxing Academy has simply reaffirmed his thought process, building on the honor he already has for the sport’s athletes.
“I respect these guys,” he said. “I honor these guys a great deal. I think some of these guys are the best athletes in the world.”
Walker’s versatility is more than enough to create a buzz among the mainstream sports fans. The fact that he has competed in not only the NFL, but also in the Olympics, gives him an edge when speaking about MMA and comparing it to other methods of sport. Perhaps seeing an athlete who has performed at the highest level in other big picture competitions provides the fans of those sports a chance to understand MMA and witness what it takes to be a part of it. Walker feels this to be true and that his resume makes him the perfect candidate.
“I think I have the credentials because I competed at almost every level,” Walker explained. “At the professional level (in) football, on the Olympic team in track and field, and now, I’m in MMA.
“I’m not in here for an ego boost or trying to prove anything to anyone. That’s one thing that I don’t want to do is make this sport a joke. This is a legitimate sport and I want to make it that.”
It’s the goal of Herschel Walker to bring an understanding of MMA to the casual sports fan. Some may not understand the purpose of Walker being a part of what many believe to be a brutal competition, but he understands that. And perhaps him being a part of it, then praising it to everyone else that knows who he is, makes him ideal for the position of ‘MMA spokesperson.’
So many followers of MMA get frustrated with the fact that many outside of the sport don’t understand it, then are quick to judge based on what they hear or see. According to Walker, getting upset with those people is a waste of energy. Educating them is a task he is willing to take on.
“You don’t have to get upset with anyone because they dislike something,” he said. “I don’t know whether they dislike it (or) they don’t understand it. And I think that’s the point.”
The point, indeed. Getting on a soapbox to lobby for the mainstream acceptance of mixed martial arts is necessary for the sport’s continued growth. While MMA has seen it’s share of time on SportsCenter, a consistent spot on the big stage of exposure is still a place the sport and all it’s personalities are working towards. Herschel Walker’s participation has, undoubtedly, brought that status much closer to becoming a reality.
Through countless interviews, TV spots, and radio segments, Walker has used his popularity, charm, and well-spoken character to promote, not just Strikeforce as a brand, but MMA as a whole. It’s reasons like this that give the sport a fighting chance at becoming mainstream.
Maybe, just maybe, he is the ambassador that mixed martial arts needs.