Earlier this week, Herschel Walker, former NFL running back, withdrew from his second MMA fight due to a serious cut under his eye requiring stitches. I’m not really ashamed to admit that I didn’t even know Walker was pursuing an MMA career. I thought to myself, Herschel Walker? Isn’t he like 50? Close, he’s 48. Starting an MMA career at 48? At least he is a black belt in taekwondo, but at 48? At least he admits he isn’t going to have a long career in the sport, stating “I can’t do this for a long period of time, I know that, and I’m not ever going to fight for a belt. I just started this, and I got into it too late. I just want to have fun and keep getting better for as long as I can.” How about stop now. I think the cut is a sign. This prompted me to think about some of the older, higher profile athletes trying to make a transition to MMA.
This year we saw James Toney, 41 years old, trash talk his way into a shot in the UFC against Randy Couture. He lost bad. Yes, Randy is 48 years old, but has a long, legendary MMA career. Toney is a one dimensional boxer, 41 and fat. Too late to start MMA.
In 2007, then 46-year-old Ray Mercer, a former WBO titleholder, tried to make a run at MMA, but was submitted by Kimbo Slice – a street fighter certainly not know for his submission skills. Kimbo sucks so where does that put Mercer? Riddick Bowe talked about entering the world of MMA back in 2007 at age 40 and even signed a contract with a now defunct organization, but he never actually fought. Good decision, whether it was voluntary or not.
For a boxer to make the transition to MMA, it would take at least a couple years of solid training to learn the other necessary disciplines of MMA to survive. A couple years that a 40+ year old retired boxer doesn’t really have. I understand the transition made by someone like Brock Lesnar. A massive, athletic individual with a more than impressive wrestling background, now at age 34, in a heavyweight category that was weak at the time he entered the game. He got by on his size and athleticism for a while, but when someone as big and strong as you are and completely fearless hits you.hard. When you’re not used to getting hit for real, that’s when you find out how tough you really are.
Shane Carwin came close to beating Lesnar, leveling him in the first round of their bout, but ran out of gas in the second round. Carwin would have won that fight if he hadn’t lost his stamina. Cain Velasquez picked up from there and showed how inexperienced Lesnar really is in the sport of MMA. Once Lesnar realized he couldn’t take Velasquez down as easily as some of his previous opponents, and once he took a few hard shots to the noggin, he appeared to want to run away and hide, essentially doing so by doing somersaults across the ring before being smothered by Velasquez and ending the fight with a verbal submission.
Lesson? MMA is not a transition sport and is not an old man’s game.