Mayorga, Walker take new challenge

Two professional athletes who have made names for themselves in other sports made separate announcements that they plan to compete in mixed martial arts.

Professional boxer Ricardo Mayorga and former NFL star Herschel Walker officially made their intentions known Monday to try professional MMA.

Mayorga, the former WBC welterweight champion, will give the sport a shot while his boxing future remains in limbo because of a contract dispute with promoter Don King.

Mayorga said at a news conference that he is not retired from boxing but has been harboring an interest in MMA for some time.

“I am a fighter by nature, I learned to fight on the streets of Nicaragua before I learned to box,” he said. “For many years, I have wanted to try MMA. Now I hope to get my opportunity.”

Mayorga doesn’t seem to think the switch will be very difficult.

“I have had a few training sessions, and once I get the approval that I can start doing MMA, I will learn even more quickly,” he said.

Walker, on the other hand, has been a martial arts practitioner for quite a while.

“I’ve been training for several years. I would play college football games on Saturday and then compete in martial arts tournaments on Sunday after church,” he said in a news release. “I’m now looking forward to opening up another chapter in my life and to competing in MMA.”

Unlike Mayorga, the 47-year old former Heisman Trophy winner already has an MMA contract with Strikeforce. Walker, a sixth-degree taekwondo black belt, will compete as a heavyweight and announced he will train at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., one of the most prominent gyms in the sport.

“I will go in there and test myself against any 20-year-old,” Walker said. “I know there will be naysayers, and I’m fine with that. I want to prove to people who sit on a couch and don’t do anything but criticize other people that, if you’re a true athlete or martial artist, you’re not old until you can’t get up and walk around anymore.”

• UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT UPDATE — Vitor Belfort might have put himself immediately in line for a title shot by knocking out Rich Franklin at UFC 103 on Saturday night.

Belfort, a former UFC light heavyweight champion returning to the organization after four years, might next fight for Anderson Silva’s middleweight belt.

The other top contenders, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson, have already challenged Silva unsuccessfully.

“The way that the last two fights happened for Marquardt and Henderson against Anderson Silva, I think it’d be better to see them fight each other,” UFC president Dana White said during his postfight news conference Saturday. “The winner of that would be the next contender. I think Vitor is ready to fight Anderson Silva.”

• TUFF-N-UFF — Jerry Shapiro claimed the Tuff-N-Uff bantamweight title with a first-round submission of Maurice Centers in the finals of the local amateur organization’s four-man tournament Friday night at The Orleans.

Also, featherweight champ Chris Holdsworth retained his belt with a first-round knockout of Cameron Ramirez.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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