Growing up as kids just about everybody looks at a professional athlete as a hero or person they could one day aspire to be like.
Whether you wanted to throw a football like Joe Montana or shoot a basketball like Michael Jordan, almost everyone admired some sports figure. But what about those great players who actually did throw that football or score that basket, who were they looking up to?
Well, with the growth of mixed martial arts over the last several years, the sport of professional football has apparently taken quite a liking to the fighters in the UFC and other promotions.
According to NFL Insider and UFC on Fuel TV host Jay Glazer, the NFL’s best are looking at the UFC’s top fighters as the ones they admire the most.
“Pro athletes from mainstream sports, they look up to UFC fighters,” Glazer explained to MMAWeekly.com. “I’ll never forget, five years ago, whenever it was, I get a call from Mike McCarthy, the head coach of the (Green Bay) Packers, he said hey you’re pretty cool with Randy Couture right? I said yeah I’m pretty cool with Randy Couture, we’ve got this business together, and he says oh man me and (Brett) Favre are huge fans of his, can you get him out here to give our pre-game speech?
“I’m like you and Brett Favre are huge fans of Randy Couture? He says ‘oh Favre raves about him, that’s the guy Brett Favre looks up to.’ Even our sports heroes need sports heroes and these UFC fighters are their sports heroes.”
Glazer says the crossover of MMA into pro football has gotten so crazy over the last few years that his two jobs have become one on an almost daily basis.
Glazer splits his time between his role as an NFL insider for Fox Sports, and as a broadcaster for the UFC shows on Fox, Fuel and FX, but even during a crucial time like NFL training camps, it’s all he can do to keep the players, coaches and executives from grilling him about the latest goings on in the world of MMA.
“When I used to go around for Fox to these different training camps, my 40-day NFL training camp tour, and I’ll visit 27 teams in 40 days, it used to be 95-percent NFL questions: What’s going on here? What’s happening there? What’s going on in this place? I saw a huge change about five years ago where I started going around to these teams and nobody wants to talk to me about football anymore. Nobody cares,” said Glazer.
“All they wanted to know was hey what kind of guy is Chuck (Liddell), how is Randy (Couture), who’s the next great thing, hey Georges St-Pierre, what makes him so great? That’s all guys in the NFL wanted to talk about.”
As Glazer explains it, the crossover of the UFC into the NFL’s best and brightest truly shows the sport has caught hold as a mainstream success. That’s one of the reasons he mentions sports like football during his commentary for the UFC.
“That’s why I talk about it a lot during the broadcasts and I know some fans get all pissy because I’ll mention the NFL or baseball or something, but I do it because I’m trying to show that this is mainstream, it’s on the same level,” Glazer stated.
Of course there are more than a few NFL players that have dabbled in mixed martial arts during their down time. Glazer himself has trained several NFL pro bowl players including Super Bowl champion Clay Matthews and many others.
But for the tough nose, smash mouth mentality of the NFL, most players aren’t ready to jump in the cage just yet and try to do what their heroes in the UFC do.
Well except for one incident involving a Pro Bowl linebacker from the San Francisco 49ers.
“None of them want to get punched in the face. We let Jared Allen, cause Jared Allen’s out of his freaking mind. But we let Patrick Willis. Patrick Willis is the second guy we trained, and after a month he was begging us ‘c’mon you’ve got to let me spar.’ I said Patrick, you’re not sparring anybody. You’ve been doing this for a month; these guys have been doing this their whole lives. You’re not sparring anybody,” Glazer said telling the story.
“He’s like you’ve got to let me spar, you’ve got to let me do it. So we said alright Patrick and we let him spar against Gray Maynard, and Gray beat the dog piss out of Patrick. It was hilarious. Patrick still says he’s never been beaten so bad in his life.”
So it might be quite some time before Willis or any other NFL star tries their hand at actually stepping in the cage, but it doesn’t mean they won’t continue to admire and look up to the best fighters in the world competing in the UFC.