Herschel Walker Wins MMA debut with a TKO

Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy winner and longtime NFL running back, decided, at age 47, to give the brutal sport of mixed martial arts a try.

It seemed like a crazy idea, but when he stepped into the cage for the first time on Saturday night, it was just crazy enough to work: Walker won his MMA debut at Saturday night’s Strikeforce: Miami event in a fight that left some fans cheering and others booing.

“The experience was exciting,” Walker said afterward. “First, let me thank my opponent for giving me the opportunity to fight him because it’s tough to fight an old man.”

Walker was fighting a little-known opponent named Greg Nagy, who prior to Saturday night had a professional MMA record of just 1-1. Nagy was smaller than Walker and noticeably pudgy compared to Walker’s sculpted physique, and it was obvious that even at age 47, Walker had an enormous athletic advantage over his opponent.

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Walker landed a hard left jab to Nagy’s face in the opening seconds of the fight, and then he landed a couple of hard kicks to Nagy’s leg. With one more hard kick to Nagy’s body, Walker, a taekwondo black belt, knew he had his opponent hurt and took him to the ground. At that point, Walker looked like he might win by first-round TKO.

Unfortunately, Walker has what MMA enthusiasts would consider fairly rudimentary ground fighting skills, and even though he did manage to control Nagy on the ground and land several punches to Nagy’s face as the crowd chanted “Herschel! Herschel! Herschel!” he wasn’t able to finish the fight.

After a while on the ground, Nagy managed to tie Walker up and at one point even appeared to have Walker in trouble on the ground, attempting a leg lock submission that an inexperienced fighter like Walker was likely unaccustomed to. But Walker managed to pull his leg free, stay on top of Nagy and continue to control him. The bell sounded to end the first round with Walker on top, having dominated the first round.

At the start of the second round Nagy landed a jab to Walker’s face and went on the attack, but when they clinched, Walker picked Nagy up and slammed him to the ground. Once Walker got Nagy down he demonstrated how green he was by achieving a dominant position only to allow Nagy to break free. The fans continued to cheer Walker, although they also seemed to be growing impatient with his inability to finish Nagy. By the end of the second round a few fans were booing, even as Walker continued to dominate.

Nagy started the third round by hitting Walker in the head with a hard right hook, but Walker took it in stride and took Nagy down to the ground. At that point the crowd began to boo again, as the fight was turning into more of a marathon than a sprint.

But while Walker could have simply stayed on top of Nagy and won a decision, he kept punching, and finally, after he landed a series of unanswered punches from on top of Nagy, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, giving Walker a third-round TKO victory.

Walker clearly wasn’t satisfied with his showing.

“It was very tough,” Walker said. “I didn’t do anything right.”

But Walker also left the door open to giving MMA another shot, saying that if his trainers at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose think he’s ready, he’d like to do it again some time.

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