The Pro Bowl is inarguably the worst event in professional sports. The game of football, replete with epic playbooks, chemistry that takes years to build, and bone-crushing hits, simply doesn't lend itself to an all-star game. The sport does produce great athletes, though, and perhaps nobody in the history of the game is more athletic than former running back Herschel Walker.
Walker, 47, made his mixed martial arts debut Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise against 26-year-old Hungarian Greg Nagy. If you'll recall, the last big-time mixed martial arts fight at the BankAtlantic lasted for about 14 seconds. It left one overhyped MMA icon cowering helplessly, dethroned by a pink-haired smoothie salesman, and an entire promotional organization bankrupt.
This time, the fight was on Showtime (instead of network prime time), and this time, the fight went much longer. Walker won by TKO at 2:17 in the third round. Though he wasn't the most technical fighter and he lacked a knockout strike, Walker's legendary endurance carried him. He simply outlasted his younger opponent.
Walker, who was once the face of the UFL and the key component in the biggest trade in NFL history, has said publicly that he would donate all profits from the fight and his promotion to charity.
The fact that such a celebrated football player made his debut on the eve of the Pro Bowl-Super Bowl week, in the same place, is no coincidence, a spokesman for Strikeforce, the MMA promotion that organized the fight card, tells the Juice.
"We know football is going to be on the minds of everyone this week," he said. "Not just here but everywhere in the country and around the world. So we knew including such a legendary football player, one of the most celebrated and remarkable players in the game's history, would get fans of both sports to raise an eyebrow."
He added, "You can see, Herschel Walker is not your typical 47-year-old man, and he can clearly handle himself in the octagon."
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From a Strikeforce statement after the fight:
A native of Wrightsville, Ga., Walker was satisfied with his performance in his highly-anticipated, much-publicized debut. Endurance-wise, he didn't fight like a man his age. He was still breathing easily during the post-fight interview.
"I feel good but I didn't do many things right and I still have a lot to learn,'' said Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time Pro Bowl competitor. "The experience itself was exciting and I thank my opponent for fighting me. It's tough to fight an old man. This is the hardest thing I've ever done.
"I thought I'd be more nervous. I'm an MMA fighter now. I earned a little bit of a stripe tonight. This is one of my biggest athletic achievements ever.''
And video of the old man punishing his younger opponent: