Football legend-turned-Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Herschel Walker and STRIKEFORCE CEOScott Coker participated in a national media conference call to discuss Walker’s upcoming second professional MMA bout on the televised undercard of a STRIKEFORCE World Championship Doubleheader on Saturday, Jan. 29, at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
Walker (1-0) will return to the cage to face Scott Carson (4-1) in a heavyweight bout. The matchup between Walker and Carson was originally scheduled for Dec. 4, but was postponed after Walker sustained a cut above his eye during a training session.
Walker, 48, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time NFL Pro Bowl competitor, is undefeated at 1-0 in his latest athletic endeavor – MMA. A 1999 College Hall of Fame inductee who was also selected to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team that year, the 6-foot-1, 220 pound Walker, of Atlanta, holds a fifth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and boasts additional training in the combat disciplines of Muay Thai and Kenpo.
On Jan. 30, 2010, Walker made an impressive professional MMA debut, scoring a third- round TKO (punches) over 26-year-old Greg Nagy. Walker has been training in San Jose, Calif., with Team AKA, one of the most prominent MMA fight camps in the world that is also the home of former STRIKEFORCE world champions Cung Le and Josh Thomson.
STRIKEFORCE World Welterweight Champ Nick Diaz (23-7, 1 NC) will make his second title defense when he faces BrazilianEvangelista Cyborg (18-13) in the main event. STRIKEFORCE World Middleweight Champ “Jacare” Souza (13-2, 1 NC) will put his belt on the line for the first time against KO artist “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-6, 1 NC) in the co-feature of a stacked card. Also, the latest prospect from MMA’s first family, undefeated Roger Gracie (3-0), will battle former South African national wrestling champion and MMA star Trevor Prangley (23-6-1) at light heavyweight.
Photography by: Esther Lin / STRIKEFORCE
Here’s what Walker and Coker had to say on Monday:
How long have you been involved in martial arts?
“I’ve been doing martial arts for about 33 years now. I started when I was in high school. I started in Tae Kwon Do and in college I really got heavily into it. I’ve always loved martial arts. MMA is something I’ve watched for years, even when it was somewhat of a Toughman competition. And then they started putting all the rules in it and I fell in love with it.”
What are your memories of playing in the NFL in Philadelphia?
“I didn’t know what to expect when I first went to Philadelphia. I knew they had some real, real tough fans. I fell in love with the fans there. They got on your case when you didn’t play well and they cheered you on when you did. To be honest with you, I think Philadelphia really rejuvenated my football career because when I was in Minnesota even though I was playing well I wasn’t playing that much. SoPhiladelphia gave me the opportunity to come there and play with someone like Reggie White who I consider to be one of the greatest defensive lineman and (quarterback) Randall Cunningham and (linebacker) Seth Joyner and really all those guys. It just rejuvenated my career. I love Philly. I tell everyone Philly is a tough city. They know their sports and they love their sports. But if you come there to play you better come to play and not talk.”
What did you learn from suffering your eye injury?
“I did learn it’s better to wait. I didn’t really have enough experience to know that when you get cut in training that you shouldn’t really jump back in there and try to fight. I think being an athlete we’re sort of naïve and stupid. When I got cut I assumed I could still fight. One of the things I said I would do when I came to this gym at AKA (San Jose) was that I was going to leave everything in the hands of Javier Mendez, Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo and a lot of the fighters. That whatever they say I need to do I’ll do. When I went away to get my eye stitched up and I came back they were all looking at me and shaking their heads and saying you’re not going to fight. I was saying, no, I’m going to fight. But I realized they know a lot more than I do. I talked with those guys and learned how you can get that cut re-opened. They were saying how you can go into a fight and be winning the entire fight and the last 30 seconds you can do something to your eye and the referee stops it. You have to be real smart and have to go into the fight really healthy and that’s what I’ve got to do. I’m not a guy who’s going to be fighting for five, six, seven years. I’m going to be fighting for a little bit. So every fight I go into I better win so I better not have anything that’s going to make me have an opportunity to lose the fight.”