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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Herschel Walker is stepping back into the cage for the second time this Saturday at Strikeforce: San Jose on Showtime, and while the 48-year-old is taking things one fight at a time, he does have a reason for wanting to compete in the sport in the first place.
"My thing is I want to be a good ambassador for the sport, but being an ambassador doesn't mean you have to be fighting," Walker said during a pre-fight conference call this week. "What I had to do was at first prove that I could fight. I've always said I hate trainers that want to tell someone to do something, but yet they can't do it."
For Walker, by working closely with the American Kickboxing Academy for the last 18 months, he's gaining an understanding of the plight many young fighters face, and wants to be an advocate to help fighters get better pay, health coverage and to help develop a fighter's union as well, but he believes he needed to prove himself as "one of them" before he could open his mouth about it.
"I want to be able to talk about this MMA stuff, but I want to at least have the knowledge that I've been in the cage before and I've done it," he said. "I want them to know I'm here to help. I'm not here to hurt."
But as he heads into his second fight this Saturday, against Scott Carson, Walker continued to heap praise upon the fighters and coaches he's worked with to bring him along in the sport.
"All the guys in the gym have been very helpful," he said. "These are true fighters in the gym. They got fights coming up all the time, and yet they still take time out and say, 'Wait a minute Herschel, you're doing this wrong, let's do this,' and I really thank them for that."
The longtime athlete remains a competitor in all walks of life, and he pointed to that competitive nature as his drive for wanting to take this fight and continue in this latest endeavor.
"Competition is everything," he said. "My thing is, I never have to prove anything to anybody. Anything I have to prove is to myself. My first fight I really, really enjoyed it. I Thank Strikeforce and Showtime for the opportunity, but I didn't know if they were going to give me another opportunity. And I'm thrilled and happy that they are giving me another chance."
For Walker, it's about proving to himself that he's capable of whatever he believes he can do, and while MMA is what he's focused on right now, he also believes he'd be able to compete in the NFL today.
"I know I can play [football]," Walker stated. "If I continue to stay in the shape I'm in now, I know I can play when I'm 50. Right now, if you asked if I can play today, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind I can play football today, that I can help out a team today."
Whatever Walker decides to do after Saturday's fight, he continues to approach this sport with the utmost adoration and respect, and whether he steps in the cage again or not, he will look to help other fighters in the sport in any way he can.
Penick's Analysis: I think Walker's aspiration to be an advocate for fighters is great. He has some clout as a high profile athlete that played for a longtime in the NFL and was a U.S. Olympian. By going through what his fellow fighters are going through and experiencing first hand the trials and tribulations of being a fighter and stepping in the cage, he is gaining knowledge of what these fighters go through and what still needs to be done for them. Even if a fighter's union is perhaps an unrealistic goal for the near future, if he can do any good in getting fighters better pay and health coverage from a major organization or on a larger scale, it will be a great thing.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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