by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Strikeforce)
There is no doubt that Herschel Walker’s fight coming up this weekend has the mainstream sports media eyeing Strikeforce and the former football player’s debut. From appearances on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption to Howard Stern radio, Walker has been making the rounds telling everybody why he chose MMA.
But why did Strikeforce take a chance on Walker?
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker spoke with MMAWeekly Radio just before Saturday night’s fights and explained how originally the promotion was set to pass on signing Walker.
“When we first sat down with his manager the initial response was we’re not going to be in this business, and we’re going to go and keep doing fights, the big, big fights that we had and keep promoting the guys like Nick Diaz, and Gina (Carano) and Fedor (Emelianenko), Cung (Le) and Frank (Shamrock) and those guys. But you know, he said just take a meeting with Herschel and I said okay,” Coker commented.
Strikeforce officials met with the former NFL and USFL star and decided to allow Walker to show them how much he knew, and if that would be enough to perform in a professional mixed martial arts fight.
“We took a meeting with Herschel and he said just watch me work out,” said Coker. “I went down to Legends gym and watched Herschel work out and set up a kickboxer to come kickbox with him, and a grappler to come grapple with him, and a jiu-jitsu black belt to come grapple with him, and you know, he didn’t do too bad.
“I asked Bob (Cook) what do you think? He said if he comes up to San Jose (Calif.) and lives here for three months and trains here for three months, like a real training camp, then I think AKA could get him ready.”
The conditions were set. Walker would train at the famed American Kickboxing Academy, working with top athletes like Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and many others.
“I told Herschel that was the deal. If you can basically stop your life and move to San Jose and come to a training camp, then we’ll do it, but it’s going to be a big commitment on your part,” Coker stated. “And he did it. He stayed here all through the holidays and Christmas and New Year’s, and he’s committed, never missed a practice, never complained, and I’ve heard he’s been in there with all the guys from AKA.”
The culmination of the Herschel Walker experiment will come to fruition this Saturday night as the former All-Pro makes his Strikeforce and MMA debut against Greg Nagy in a heavyweight contest.
“I’m proud of him,” Coker said about Walker. “I’m just excited to see what happens on Saturday.”