This Saturday Herschel Walker will make his MMA debut in a fight carefully orchestrated and arranged for him to win. When he inevitably looks impressive, Strikeforce announcers will swoon. What an athlete! Herschel Walker proved the critics wrong!
The real story is more complicated. Throughout the week I've read swooning, unquestioning stories on Herschel Walker's MMA potential. Take Kevin Iole:
He’s such a great athlete, if he were born in 1987 instead of in 1962, he could have become the greatest MMA fighter who ever lived.
Really? Are we sure about this? Do we know he would have had a good chin? Do we know he would have had the killer instinct to put guys away? The will to fight through a broken hand in a 5 round fight? It's really odd to see this kind of thing from someone covering the sport, you'd think all it takes to be good at MMA is athleticism.
In early stages of an MMA career, athleticism is everything. If you take two 0-0 fighters and put them against each other, the better athlete will usually win. I expect Walker to run over everyone in his (carefully picked) path en route to a quick 5-0 record.
His coaches and friends at AKA speak the world of him. Of course, he is a potential meal ticket for the coaches at AKA and it's exceedingly rare for anyone in a fight camp to bash someone they train with. Javier Mendez has raved about his progress. It's also worth noting that in 2008 Javier Mendez was telling anyone who would listen that Cain Velasquez was a K-1 level kickboxer and could walk in and be a good pro boxer:
"Right now, he could walk in and be a good pro boxer," said Mendez about someone who, aside from fooling around with gloves with some friends, had never even put on boxing gloves until August 2006. "He could not only be a good kickboxer, but he’s K-1 level (the Japanese group which is top organization for heavyweights in the world).
We all found out the truth about Cain's boxing and kickboxing. It's not bad, but it's not K-1 level unless you're counting the guys they bring into K-1 to get knocked out. Coaches and sparring partners tend to over-praise their teammates.
I have no objections to Walker participating in the sport. He deserves an opportunity to prove himself. But I'm not going to put any stock into his wins in fights that are designed for him to win. A win over Greg Nagy is not going to tell us much.