This week’s edition of the Sunday Supplement takes an in depth look at C.M. Punk’s debut at UFC 203 and his possible future in MMA.
What’s next for CM Punk?
Last night saw C.M. Punk finally make his debut in the top fighting organization in the world at UFC 203, facing the 2-0, just-turned-professional Mickey Gall in Cleveland, Ohio.
The lead up to the fight this week saw a lot of attention surrounding a C.M. Punk, who seemed to be confident, overly in some interviews, that he would be walking out of Cleveland the winner.
There seemed to be no doubt in his mind, enough for him to refrain from shaking Gall’s hand at the weigh in’s. However, the positive visualization was not enough for Punk, as skill and years of MMA training experience trumped enthusiasm and belief.
Punk was easily dismantled by Gall, who handled the pressure of the occasion with ease. The discrepancy in skill and experience came into play right off the bat as an eager Punk rushed Gall only to be double legged and taken down into unfamiliar territory. A fight Punk had hoped to keep on the feet was now ground-based and it was only a matter of time, two minutes and 15 seconds to be exact until Gall asserted himself over Punk, landing heavy shots from the top and flattening him out to win another fight via Rear Naked Choke.
While it’s hard to gauge because of the caliber of the opponent, Gall looked great and could be a star in the UFC. He has the skills, talks well on the microphone, is professional while still building hype, and his walkout music will for sure catch on with fans. He seems to have a bright future. Being allowed to fight Punk could be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Punk had his support from the pro wrestling community and some fighters also. However, this result was the expected outcome for most of the MMA community. While Punk may have visualized a different outcome and his camp may have encouraged this notion, this fight was a reality check and proves that it takes more than two years of training to become a competent fighter.
Punk’s post-fight comments
After the fight, Punk spoke with Joe Rogan and tried to put across his message about believing in yourself and getting back up after being knocked down in life, while Gall gave his respect to Punk in a way by saying fighters should all love each other and “F— the Hate.”
Punk also gave some advice to Gall, which was not heard in the Octagon. At the post-fight conference it was revealed that Punk said that Gall belongs in the UFC and not to let anyone tell him otherwise, which Gall said was strange but nice of him to do.
Also in the post-fight conference, Punk acknowledged that his performance was poor and the fight was lopsided. He said he had to go back to the drawing board despite wanting to get back in the cage to erase his loss.
He has no regrets about his decision to fight, calling it “magical.” However, he was uncertain about his future in the UFC and was emotional throughout the interview.
Looking at Punk’s journey and how everything played out, no matter how good the money may have been or the allure of fighting for the UFC, perhaps going down a similar route to the one Dave Batista tried would have been the best start for Punk.
Punk did what he said he was going to do and stepped into the Octagon to fight, which is respectable. He was thrown into the biggest fighting organization in the world; fighting someone at his level would have been a better idea and something which could have raised his stock even further when it came to signing with the UFC eventually. It also would have garnered him a lot more respect within the MMA world than he got for skipping the queue and fighting in the UFC right away for his fight fight. That’s something Brock Lesnar didn’t even do. Because of Punk’s age, he might have wanted to skip ahead a few steps, but Batista is older than Punk and he still took that route.
The future for Punk in MMA now is uncertain after the fight last night, Dana White spoke to John Pollock of The Fight Network and said that if Punk has another fight, it probably shouldn’t be in the UFC.
Joe Rogan blunt in his view of Punk
During the wrap-up of UFC 203, Joe Rogan echoed this thought and gave his comments on Punk and the situation.
“What he did was great, it was courageous,” Rogan said. “But it was delusional. That’s my feeling. My feeling when I was watching him hit the bag, when I was watching him train, and when I was watching him hit things. It’s not like he can’t ever learn, but there’s a journey as a martial artist, and there’s a path that each martial artist is on. And different people are on different paths. There’s a reason brown belts don’t compete with white belts in jiu-jitsu tournaments. It’s because it’s not fair. And what we saw tonight is not fair.
“Mickey Gall’s way better. He’s really good. I watched that kid roll, I watched him take the back when he fought Mike Jackson – he’s really good. And I just think that this is what happens when you take a guy who’s an elite young kid and you have him fight someone’s who a celebrity and wants to challenge himself. It’s not the way to do it.
“If I had to give C.M. Punk some advice, I hate to harp on this, I’d say fight as an amateur, fight people at your level. He wants to do this, he wants to challenge himself, he wants to continue, God bless him. He’s a fun guy. I like him. But this is not the way to do it.”
With both Dana White and Joe Rogan not in favor of it, it looks like we may not see Punk in the UFC again. Whether Punk fights again at all remains to be seen. He did say before this fight, win or lose, that he wanted to keep going. Perhaps if UFC 203 does good PPV numbers, then Dana White might soften his stance for business sake and Punk may yet get another chance in the UFC, as they will probably look to make as much off this deal as possible while they still can. Unless Punk drastically improves in every area, he will be in for more of the same in the Octagon if given another chance.
What about Bellator as a next stop for Punk?
If Punk is still serious about fighting, then there are several promotions who would take him on, I’m sure, on name value alone. Bellator would most likely be interested.
They have shown interest in Punk before as well as being known for putting on the occasional “freakshow” fight such as Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000, Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock III, and more. As suspect as booking those fights was, they still garnered a lot of interest and drew ratings for Spike.
There are also a lot of small promotions out there that would be happy to have a big name like Punk on their card, depending on if Punk would want to fight on a small scale. Doing so could possibly undercut his star power in the long run if he chooses to keep doing it.
I’m 50/50 on whether Punk fights again. I think that there is a slim chance that it would take place in the UFC. I think this crossover experiment is over for the UFC, especially with the new owners on board. If Punk does fight again, his fans will follow him wherever he goes and, despite not being a fan of his myself, there is still money to be made from Punk in MMA, but I don’t think it will come with the respect and success that Punk is craving in the sport.
(D.R. Webster writes “The Sunday Supplement” for MMATorch each week. He has written for Daily Record Sport, WrestleTalk TV, Sports Kings, and a variety of other combat sports sites and publications, includinv review shows and DVDs, news reporting, columns, and fantasy articles.)