One of the lesser known stories this week, with the buildup to UFC 129 in Toronto, has been former professional wrestler Dave Batista acknowledging that he won’t be stepping into a Strikeforce cage anytime soon for a fight. It may very well end his prospects of stepping into a cage for a fight, as apparently his heart was set on Strikeforce, but here’s the thing.
It’s the best move for both parties.
Unlike the two other pro fighters who have come from the wrasslin’ ranks and found some measure of success in Bobby Lashley and Brock Lesnar, both of whom had extensive amateur wrestling credentials, Batista’s experience outside of Vince McMahon’s billion-dollar organization has been as a bodybuilder and as a bouncer. It would’ve been much more of a true freak show to throw him on a major card for eyeballs than the other two freak show fighters who’ve made debuts on major MMA promotions recently:
— Herschel Walker, in a Strikeforce has had in the cage twice, had an extensive athletic background in martial arts and a career in the NFL before becoming a fighter.
— James Toney, who was choked out by Randy Couture, is a Hall of Fame level boxer.
With those two you can at least justify their placement if only for their backgrounds in combat sports. Toney has world class knockout power in his hands and Walker is a credentialed martial artist on top of being recognizable names. Batista … well … he looks like he could beat up anyone in a bar, right? He LOOKS like a tough guy and he played one for a number of years but that’s just it: he doesn’t have a background of being a good athlete, a black belt or bona fides in anything close to resembling a combat sport.
And that’s the problem: a short amount of time training to be a MMA fighter isn’t going to make up for a lack of a base in high level athletic competition. You can say all you want about Lashley or Lesnar in terms of style but they both were national championship wrestlers. Toney has been a World Champion boxer. Walker won a Heisman trophy in a skill position. There’s a requisite athletic base required that Batista just doesn’t have and can’t acquire, either, no matter how hard he works out at the Cesar Gracie gym.
He’d look like a first rate amateur in his debut and anyone with a decent amount of skill would most likely handle him in short order. Anyone with a high level of experience would manhandle him, despite his remarkable physique, because you just can’t walk into a cage with a short amount of training and expect to take on a seasoned fighter successfully. Lashley was TKO’d by Chad Griggs, an unheralded fighter to that point, and Lashley at least had a base of wrestling to build his MMA career on. Batista can exercise very well and apparently coordinate a fake fight quite well too. Not exactly the same thing as throwing a combination or attempting triangle chokes.
Batista jumping into a high profile fight early in his career would be based mainly on his popularity as a pro wrestler as opposed to anything else. One can see why he’d want to start near the top, instead of working his way up through smaller promotions, because Lesnar took that route and made quite the career out of it. But Lesnar was also an NCAA champion and two time finalist. He at least had the athletic background to justify being brought into the UFC so early when others wouldn’t have. It could be justified on an athletic basis, at least, and Lesnar has proven to be able to hang with the best in the world.
Batista has nothing but a name and any heavyweight worth his salt would probably get a quick and decisive victory. He needs years of training and a handful of fights to see if he can even be good at fighting. Strikeforce lost nothing by not signing him other than a brief ratings increase and an over-inflated salary based on name recognition.
At this point his pride needs to take a backseat to logic and he should work his way up the ranks if he truly wants to transition to MMA. By merely wanting to skip all that for a payday, one thing is apparently clear: this was all about a quick payday. If Batista was serious about being a fighter he’d have been on smaller shows already, taking his lumps. By merely expecting a high profile fight without proving oneself in any true athletic arena, Batista has proven that it never was about MMA. It was all about the money.
Tags: Batista, Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesnar, Dave Batista, Herschel Walker, James Toney, Mixed Martial Arts, Strikeforce