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CM Punk: Chasing a Dream or UFC Freak Show?

Matthew Litzenberger & Gene Selassie take a look at the UFC Debut of former WWE Superstar CM Punk. What it means for the sport of MMA? An what career he should pursue after he gets done with the first real fight of his career.

 

Matthew Litzenberger (Lead MMA Writer) Take on Phil Brooks:

 Any person willingly entering any ‘ring’ or ‘octagon’, putting their physical safety on the line in any ‘real’ combat sport, is a tough SOB. By fighting at UFC 203, Phil Brooks has more heart and balls than most people walking the planet today. Unfortunately that is where my admiration ends. I find his presence in the UFC unsettling for a sport looking to become more mainstream and less freak show. Phil Brooks aka CM Punk is not a real professional fighter. Yes, he will get ‘paid to fight’ Mickey Gall this Saturday at UFC 203, but he is there as a freak show to sell Pay-Per-View (PPV) buys, not as fighter. This is not Phil Brooks’s (In real fighting we use real names) fault, he appears he loves fighting and he got an amazing opportunity to fight on the biggest stage the sport has to offer. He smartly got himself into a legendary camp, with Duke Roufus’s gym to prepare for his fight. I do not fault him for taking this opportunity. It’s the UFC’s fault for allowing it to happen. He has no business in that octagon, as he holds zero legitimate fighting background prior to his last 18 months of training for this fight. No, performing pre-staged stunts in a scripted albeit athletic spectacle like the ‘WWE’ is not a legitimate fighting background. He is not Brock Lesnar, a man who on top of his ridiculous size and strength was a dominant collegiate wresting champion. This background allowed him to adequately transition to another combat sport like the UFC. Brooks has no such background, and is risking extreme injury in facing a legitimate prospect in Mickey Gall. You cannot become a high level fighter in less than two years, no more than you can become a high level basketball or baseball player. However, here is Phil Brooks about to enter the cage with no significant skill set or single fight history. Even worse is that he is skipping the line of legitimate fighters who’ve dedicated their lives to their sport& craft. He has not even entertained or even attempted a lower level fight, let alone the typical five fights required by the Ohio athletic commission to get licensed as a professional.

This entire set-up reeks of privilege and disrespect for a sport he supposedly loves. Brooks skipped the amateur ranks; he even skipped having a few cupcake pro-bouts at a local circuit. I could have even seen him getting a gift slot on the Ultimate Fighter reality show. There he would have at least earned his spot on a real UFC card. His presence on a main portion of a Pay-Per-View card delegitimizes the sport, fighters have worked so hard to make legit. Combat sports are a cruel and brutal. Careers have short-shelf lives and have few spots to make money. PPV’s are one of those spots they get to make money. Brook’s presence on one, takes that opportunity away from a real fighter who does not have the millions of dollars like Brooks to fall back on. Put another way why doesn’t the NFL let Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson start at Defensive End for the Miami Dolphins this week. They could justify it because he plays a former NFL character on the HBO show ‘Ballers’. It is insane and ridiculous that is why. That scenario is essentially what Phil Brooks is about to do at UFC 203. It is a clear attempt to snag a few more PPV buys, but makes no real sense for all the parties involved if becoming a real fighter is the real goal.  If by some chance Brooks lands a Hail-Mary shot and beats Gall, his death sentence will merely be delayed until his next fight with an even bigger and better killer. For his and the sport’s sake I hope Mickey Gall wipes the floor with him quick. A fast end will ensure this charade never gets repeated on future cards. This will allow Phil Brooks to go back to being CM Punk, in the WWE. He can be happy there, making millions of dollars ‘play fighting’; and leave the real fighting to the professionals.

 

Gene Selassie (Lead Wrestling Writer) Take on CM Punk:

Let me preface this by saying I’m a huge CM Punk fan. This guy doesn’t half-ass anything he does. From his earliest days in backyard feds like the Lunatic Wrestling Federation, to his wars in Ring of Honor to his long struggle up the ladder of World Wrestling Entertainment (all the time with the people at the top kicking him back down a rung every time he climbed two). I respect the hell out of Phil Brooks and all he has accomplished. That being said, I still have my reservations about him pursuing a career in mixed martial arts.

Punk essentially began his pursuit of a career in MMA just north of 35 years of age. Most competitors start at a much younger age. Several media outlets have reported that he has looked decent in the cage, but not great. He is carrying several battle scars from years in the professional wrestling business. It’s been rumored that his wife, former WWE superstar AJ Lee, is not the biggest fan of him venturing into mixed martial arts. The kind of injuries that one can get competing in this sport combined with the fact that the body doesn’t heal as well at 37 that it did at 21 (when he started wrestling); all of these signs point to him potentially having a lackluster MMA career.

Perhaps he could prove me wrong. I would love nothing more than for Punk to shock the world and unleash hell on opponent after opponent. All he would need are four or five really solid outings and then three to four strong paydays and he could theoretically walk away by the age of 40.

Realistically, I would prefer Punk to walk away while he still has his health. I envision that if he returned to WWE, with the current company shift in mentality of what it takes to be the “top guy”, he would run the place. Seeing a final run by Punk, putting on dream matches against the likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and AJ Styles? That and a part time contract could mean an amazing and lucrative Hall of Fame run for the self proclaimed “Best in the World”, all the while still keeping his health.

 

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