The UFC shocked the entertainment world two years ago when they announced live on television they had signed former WWE superstar CM Punk to a contract. The news was met with widespread criticism as many felt due to the fact he has no prior MMA experience whatsoever.
But Punk and his team at Roufusport are optimistic of his chances against Mickey Gall at UFC 203 Saturday. The 37-year-old has no amateur bouts under his belt nor does he really have a traditional martial arts background. Punk represents what would happen if the average individual fought in the UFC and, while he will earn plenty of respect for having the courage to put his body on the line, it will be a long painful night for him.
Punk’s real name is Phil Brooks. Born to an alcoholic father, he became straight edged at an early age and later discovered pro wrestling. He began using the name “CM Punk” and eventually worked his way up to the WWE where, in his prime, Punk was the face of the organization. His straight-edged lifestyle coupled with his outspoken and fiercely competitive nature earned him a strong and passionate fan base. But after a string of injuries and a declining passion for the sport, Punk left and pursued a new passion: mixed martial arts.
Unlike fellow wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar, who transitioned successfully from pro wrestling to MMA, Punk has no amateur wrestling experience. He trained in karate as a teenager and has dabbled in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but is only just a striped white belt. When it was announced he would compete in the UFC, Punk hadn’t even begun training seriously.
However, the Chicago native has proven himself as dedicated as UFC president Dana White hoped for. He drove more than three hours to Milwaukee daily just to train and eventually moved there. He was at the gym twice a day and was even praised by a former detractor, unbeaten welterweight Ben Askren.
In interviews Punk says the right things and coach Duke Roufus says he has the right mindset with his “heart and determination” being his greatest assets. While some may look at Punk as a real life “Rocky” figure, the harsh realities of MMA will immediately become apparent when he’s face-to-face with Gall.
The 24-year-old was handpicked by the UFC after his pro debut was featured on the popular Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight. Gall was given a shot in the UFC and handily won his Octagon debut against Mike Jackson. Gall is as high as a 5-to-1 favourite over Punk, but he isn’t an unbeatable juggernaut. He’s just 2-0 as a pro. A young, developing fighter who has fought low-level competition. Still, he will have significant advantages over Punk.
Gall has both youth and experience on his side. Technically, he is miles ahead of Punk in all aspects, especially in the grappling department, and he’s looking to make a name for himself by beating on Punk. He also has less wear and tear on his body.
Punk was beaten and battered in his wrestling career. He has torn his meniscus, injured his shoulder and suffered concussions. He even herniated a disc earlier this year training for his MMA debut.
On the flipside, it’s often said sport is 90 percent mental and Punk has a good head on his shoulders. He is not short on confidence while maintaining no delusions about how dangerous the sport is. He is aware of the seemingly insurmountable skill gap he has to overcome.
At the end of the day, the two things Punk’s mindset won’t overcome are his lack of experience and physical conditioning. Gall has been in there, albeit just twice, and knows what it’s like. Punk will attempt to shock the MMA world but the odds stacked against him for a reason. He’s going to get a rude awakening.