The sport of Mixed Martial Arts has, due to its rapidly growing popularity and mainstream acceptance, received an influx of crossover athletes looking to compete in its rings and cages. From ex-football and baseball players to professional boxers, these crossover athletes have brought more attention, and possibly fans, to MMA; something that can hardly be considered to carry with it a negative impact.
UFC President Dana White, despite employing professional boxer James Toney and former professional wrestler Brock Lesnar, has been vocal of his feeling that crossover athletes like Herschel Walker and Jose Canseco do nothing but discredit the sport of MMA, turning it into a “freak show.” UFC color commentator Joe Rogan has a different take on these crossover athletes, as he expressed in a promo for HDNet’s upcoming The Voice Vs. Joe Rogan which features fellow MMA commentator Michael Schiavello.
“No. No I don’t,” Rogan said when asked if crossover athletes harm MMA’s image. “I don’t think it in any way harms mixed martial arts. I liked watching the Herschel Walker fight. I thought it was interesting. I loved the fact that here’s a guy who’s an elite athlete, who’s 47 years old, that just decides that this is something that he’s wanted to pursue for a while, that does it the right way, goes to AKA, trains with a very respectable camp, with some of the best guys in the world, and really puts in the work and does the right thing.”
While Rogan was quick to laud Walker’s professional and dedicated approach to MMA training, he does not exactly slam Canseco for doing the opposite and trying to pick up a paycheck.
“The Jose Canseco thing, you know, was just a guy who needs some money and Japan loves freak shows,” Rogan said. “I watched it. I like a freak show every now and then. It’s not the same as watching a great fight between two really talented fighters and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but I like it. I don’t think it’s bad. I don’t think these guys entering into MMA does anything other than give MMA attention. And if anything, it highlights the very obvious difference between a guy like an Anderson Silva — you watch Anderson Silva fight and then you watch Herschel Walker fight. I think it’s good. I think it’s good for people to see. As long as there’s more eyes on MMA. That’s what I think is important.”
It is hard to disagree with Rogan when you consider that Walker’s fight was roundly discussed on ESPN and other major sports news sources. As long as it isn’t because people are dying in the cage, the more media attention that MMA can grab, the better.