One Year Later, Herschel Walker Returns to MMA, Then Hints at NFL Comeback

At 48 years old, Herschel Walker is still looking for ways to challenge himself. On January 29, he'll be back in the cage for the first time in one year, facing Scott Carson at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg.

Walker doesn't have any grand plans on fighting beyond that match, choosing to see how his learning progresses, but surprisingly, he may have his eye on another sporting venture. The former football superstar has designs on a possible NFL comeback.

"I know I can play," Walker said on a Monday conference call. "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."

If Walker did make it back to the league, he'd be the oldest position player in NFL player in history, and match George Blanda as the oldest ever to wear an NFL uniform.

It's an unlikely scenario, but then again, so is most of Walker's story.

The once-in-a-lifetime athlete is considered by many to be among the greatest in U.S. sports history. Walker has been a football star, track star, taekwondo black belt, Olympic bobsledder, and mixed martial artist.

But before he tries to add an NFL sequel to his already amazing life, first things first, and for right now, that's his return to MMA. Walker hasn't competed in nearly a full calendar year. It was Jan. 30, 2010 when he made his debut with a third-round TKO over Greg Nagy. Since then, he's continued to train at American Kickboxing Academy, alongside notables like UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Strikeforce heavyweight Daniel Cormier and UFC welterweight contender Jon Fitch, among others.

Walker credits those men with accelerating his learning curve, particularly Velasquez, who he says "took me under his wing."

"All the guys in the gym have been very helpful," he said. "That's why I tell everyone I thank them. 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."

He says he's spent most of his time in the gym working on his wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

The one-year layoff between fights is rare for someone so new to the sport, as most neophytes are anxious to quickly rack up experience in the fighting arena. Though his return was delayed by an injury, it still would have been a lengthy period with no fighting.

Walker insists though, that he was in no rush to get back to competition and or to follow up on any momentum gained from his first win. Instead, the pressure-free training environment was a better outlet for him.

"To be honest, I hadn't thought about coming back," he said. "I just thought about training. My thing is, I just train. You probably know I'm different from your average fighter, different from your average football player or average athlete. I never thought about it. All I did was, I went to the gym just to train, and the fight then came about, and I was happy to do it. I'm always training. I'm always doing something but I never thought about coming back early or not."

While that seems a contradictory statement from his proclamations of love for competing, Walker says to him it makes perfect sense.

"Competition is everything," he said. "I compete in everything but when I was going to the gym, I was not thinking about fighting, I wasn't thinking about anything but just learning. 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."

His future is just as unclear. Walker says he's not looking into the distance and when or even if he'd ever fight again.

With both MMA and the possibility of an NFL comeback attempt -- Walker reiterated it was no joke -- on the table, the world's youngest 48-year-old clearly still has challenges ahead. But as for Saturday night, the goals for the novice mixed martial artist are decidedly modest.

"I hope the MMA world knows I'm a little bit better than a year-old-fighter," he said. "I hope they know that, and this coming Saturday, they'll see that."

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