MMA: Strikeforce card a real knockout
By LEE NESSEL
Mixed martial arts fans will have several good reasons to get in front of a TV Saturday evening. Strikeforce has put together another must-see event featuring a Heisman Trophy winner, a former NAIA collegiate wrestling national champion-turned-professional wrestler and a women’s title fight.
That’s right, all in one night. And none of those are even the main event.
Several big names headline the Strikeforce: Miami fight card, but perhaps the most famous and intriguing is football legend Herschel Walker. You can’t help but be curious to see how this 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and 1999 College Hall of Fame inductee, now age 47, will fare in the cage.
Walker, who is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, is a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do with additional training in Muay Thai and Kenpo. His opponent, Greg Nagy (6-3, 215), is 21 years his junior.
But Walker has branched out into other athletic forays before, including bobsledding, where he finished seventh in the 1992 Olympics. He’s even done ballet. But he’s all about this debut.
“MMA is the No. 1 sport out there for me,” he said recently. “I love competition; I don’t want to lose at anything. I’m a little bit older, but I love competition.”
Bobby Lashley, also making his pro MMA debut, knows victory as a former NAIA college wrestling champ, and then spent time in the world of WWE pro wrestling entertainment. At 6-3, 250 pounds, he is an impressive and threatening sight.
He seems humble about his debut, but already has been quoted saying he plans to work his way toward fights with Strikeforce’s top fighters like Fedor Emelianenko. He’ll start that journey against another big man - 6-10, 265-pound Wes Sims, fresh off “The Ultimate Fighter” show.
Strikeforce also continues to be the leader in promoting women’s fights, in this case showcasing Cris “Cyborg” Santos defending her 145-pound title against Marloes Coenen of Holland.
Cyborg, 24 from Brazil, has already made history. She pummeled Gina Carano to become the first-ever Strikeforce women’s champion in August during the first women’s main event in the history of any major MMA promotion.
When asked at a recent pre-fight teleconference whether she thought too much emphasis was put on appearance in coverage of women’s MMA, Cyborg was honest:
“It’s just like with anything else that women do, their appearance is very important,” she said through an interpreter. “However, it’s not what’s going to make you win a fight or not. It is your talent and what you’re doing in the ring that matters the most. I hope we move past that.”
Admirable answer. But in the same interview, she was asked if it was true she was entertaining posing in Playboy.
“I’d prefer not to talk about that right now and just focus on my fight,” Cyborg said, citing how “horrified” she was to learn that little tidbit got out.
It’s a woman’s choice to be photographed in whatever pose she allows and in whatever stage of undress, but I truly hope Cyborg keeps her clothes on, for the sole sake of allowing women’s MMA to build the credibility it’s striving for.
I give Playboy credit for going after strong and beautiful athletes, not their typical models du jour. And I know paychecks with big bunny ears are hard to resist, but I’d rather see women athletes featured in fitness and health magazines, showing that nudity is not required to get noticed.
Walker, Lashley and Cyborg, oh my. Interesting headlines already.
I guess you’ve put together quite a card when your main event isn’t the only focus. In case you hadn’t heard, the main event features Nick Diaz (20-7) of California and DREAM welterweight (170 pounds) champion Marius “The Whitemare” Zaromskis (13-3) of Lithuania.