One of the more surprising stories this year, or even of the past few years in MMA, has been the transition made by former WWE superstar CM Punk from the heavily-scripted and cushioned world of the WWE to the very real and dangerous sport of mixed martial arts.
It’s almost two years ago now since Phil “CM Punk” Brooks announced to the world that he had signed with the UFC and would be forsaking the world of pro-wrestling in favour of the world of MMA. His experience in the sport – up until that point – was virtually non-existent and for many, it was seen as a fairly debatable move on the part of the UFC.
Indeed, in the short-term, signing a well-known name like Brooks to the rapidly growing organisation would pique the interests of many pro-wrestling fans and make a pretty penny for the UFC brass. It didn’t matter who he would fight in his pro-debut, he was a marketable star and even if you hated the fact that he was getting an opportunity like this, you would be lying if you said you wouldn’t tune in to see how it would all go down.
Many, however, immediately criticised the move, saying it detracted from the integrity of the sport and only added fuel to the argument that the sport of mixed martial arts drew too heavily from the commercialised spectacle involved in selling fights.
Regardless of how you felt about the UFC’s move, the public – for the most part – unanimously agreed that the novice Punk stood virtually no chance of having any success inside the octagon. The people saw straight through the UFC’s intentions and despite due respect being given for Punk’s willingness to compete, he was dismissed as a big name skipping the queue and little else.
So when Phil Brooks stepped into the octagon at UFC 203 to face up-and-comer Mickey Gall, anything less than a comprehensive victory for Gall would be seen as a shock. Sure, Punk was working with the likes of Anthony Pettis and Duke Roufus in the build up to his fight, but with only a handful of years training he lacked the experience to get in there with the more seasoned 24-year-old.
On the night itself, Gall did not disappoint. He quickly shot in and took the helpless Brooks to the ground, beating him down before choking him out before the first round had even ended. The MMA community were not surprised and, in a way, justice had been done.
Punk admirably took his loss and spoke on his intentions to continue training. Many had suggested he may make a run on the amateur circuit, just like thousands had done before him and prove his name before using his star power to compete on the biggest stage in the sport. It would have been the right thing to do and the honourable way to go about it as a martial artist.
However, speaking in an interview with Ariel Helwani on this week’s edition of the MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting), Punk still seemed to hold onto the hope that he indeed would fight again as a UFC athlete, telling Helwani negotiations were in place for him to make his second outing for the company.
“I don’t want to speak for him [Dana White], but I think if he wants to kill it, he would have killed it right then. Until anything is official, I don’t want to say either way what he’s thinking or what he’s thinking. But yeah, I’m pretty confident that it’ll be in the UFC.
“I told him I want to fight again. We’re back at it. We’re back to the drawing board. So, it’s up to him. He floated me an idea and we’re kind of going back and forth on it right now.”
Punk, at 38, has had his injury-prone history brought into question over the years, and since moving to MMA, has seen injuries delay his progress on several occasions. Despite this, Punk maintains that he is in the peak condition of his life and even though his first foray into MMA was not successful, he remains optimistic about the future, whether his future lies within or outside of the UFC.
“I felt like I was in the best shape of my life still, so I just kept after it. I think that’s the best thing you can do after you lose. The UFC just made me a business offer. I wasn’t emotional because I saw that something was over. I was just bummed that I lost.
“This is what I do now. This is what I’m going to do now. If i can do it for you, awesome. If not, I’ll still bug you for tickets to your show.”
You can watch the full Phil “CM Punk” Brooks interview on this week’s edition of the MMA Hour below.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena