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The Herschel Walker business is good business

Unsurprisingly, MMA fans are having a hard time seeing the whole Herschel Walker situation as anything other than a terrible fight and a mild embarrassment to the sport. But if you take a look at it from a business perspective, it’s hard to see it as anything but a major success for Strikeforce. Here’s MMA Payout with the bang for buck Walker provided attention wise:

Let me just say that absolutely no one on the card came even close to garnering the amount of attention that Hershel Walker received for this event. Walker got heavy attention over at ESPN (Front Page Top Headlines, Top 10 Plays, ESPN Radio, PTI, MMA Live, etc), news papers and publications across the nation, most notably (Atlanta, Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Missouri, DC, and Florida), became a trending topic on Twitter, Front page of CNN, and a slew more nation wide.

In what has to be considered good news for Strikeforce, ESPN and ESPN News showed the MMA tab on their “Scores Bar” followed by  “Strikeforce:” and the results from all main card bouts plus Hieron vs Riggs.  The promotion and amount of eyeballs that Herschel Walker drew for this event had to be deemed a huge success for Strikeforce.  Strong ratings are expected for this event, and the booking of Walker by Strikeforce and Showtime was no mistake.

EliteXC had also been interested in using Walker before they folded, and it comes to no surprise that some of the biggest viewership numbers for MMA on Showtime and CBS come from the Southern states.  Another strategic move by all parties was holding this event the day before the Pro Bowl in Florida.  The booking of Walker got a good number of NFL affiliates, players, and fans to buy tickets for this event and Showtime’s ties to the NFL (”Inside The NFL”) most likely lead to NY Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan’s infamous interview, which is still getting headlines.

Not to mention that EA Sports, who hosts the Madden Bowl on Super Bowl Week, was also on scene to promote the Madden franchise, sponsor fighters, and promote their upcoming EA Sports MMA game.  The scheduling and timing of the event was well crafted and was a good display of synergy between EA, Strikeforce, and Showtime to use the NFL’s fan base as potential draws to the event.  Now, they just need to work on better execution.

From the perspective of a promotion that has had a hard time in the past getting any attention at all, Herschel Walker was a slam dunk. We current fans may not like it because the whole thing was a pretty blatant promotional stunt, but if it brings in a bunch of new people to check out the sport (and let’s hope they stuck around for the second half of the event), does that negate any negative aspects of the situation? I’m still not sold … I think it cheapens the sport any time you present amateur level MMA on a professional platform. But in retrospect – and as a one time thing – I’m willing to tip my hat to Strikeforce and say “Well played, sirs.”

*UPDATE* Ratings are in:

Compared to Strikeforce’s most recent event, “Strikeforce: Evolution” in December, ratings for “Miami” were up sharply. As ( previously reported, the Dec. 19 event, which featured Scott Smith vs. Cung Le and a lightweight title-unification bout of Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson, drew just 341,000 viewers.

“Strikeforce: Miami” earned an additional 176,000 viewers for ratings increase of 51.6 percent.