“It should be a wrap…”
That is the opinion of UFC President Dana White regarding the promotion’s “CM Punk experiment.”
Punk, the former WWE Superstar lost a one-sided decision to journeyman fighter Michael Jackson this past Saturday night at UFC 225 in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago. The loss brings his career record to 0-2.
Nearly two years since his MMA debut, a first round submission loss at the hands of Micky Gall (who defeated Jackson in his UFC debut), Punk (real name Phil Brooks), was ready to test himself once again, having learned from his previous outing.
He felt as though he was too calm heading into the bout with Gall. His skills weren’t where they needed to be against one of the division’s brightest prospects. As far as Punk was concerned, it was a case of too much, too soon.
Jackson, a fighter with the same record, against a common opponent seemed like the perfect candidate to evaluate the “Straightedge Superstar’s” true abilities.
The fight itself was hard to watch. Punk was battered and toyed with. But he showed undeniable heart and toughness almost to a fault. As it turns out, Punk is not capable of competing against even low-ranking professional fighters.
Following his decision to leave the ranks of professional wrestling at the height of his popularity, Punk traded in his trademark spandex trunks for a pair of 4oz. gloves. He joined the Roufusport team in Milwaukee, home to then-lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, and former Bellator titleholder Ben Askren, among others.
The man with little to no martial arts experience was determined to venture into the largest MMA promotion in the world in order to test himself. He was very open, saying that his UFC experience was something of a bucket list item.
He took time to hone his skills, learn the intricacies of being a professional mixed martial artist, and eventually, booked his first fight. He went through the rigours of a training camp, cut weight, and made that walk to the Octagon.
He lost. Badly.
He brushed himself off, went back to the drawing board, and came back to try again at UFC 225.
It obviously didn’t go his way.
While many are calling for him to end his MMA journey, including the UFC President, that doesn’t mean that Punk will, or even should.
It is clear that the UFC brought Punk in to capitalize on his name. By the same token, it was clear that under normal circumstances, Punk would never have walked out of a day job and into the biggest fight promotion in the world just because he’d always wanted to try it.
Point being, CM Punk never belonged in the UFC. Nobody would dispute that. Not White, not Lorenzo Fertitta, and probably not even Punk himself. However, what he has tried to accomplish since coming into the fold is admirable.
Attempting to learn all of the necessary tools of combat at the age of 39 is difficult enough on its own. Punk has been forced to do it while living under the microscope because of his celebrity status.
Should he choose to fight again, there is nothing wrong with the local circuit. Low level opposition, still trying to learn how to compete. Not to mention the fact that public interest on a global scale is much less prevalent in those matchups.
Given his UFC performances thus far, that is the better alternative.
It worked for fellow pro-wrestler Dave Bautista, who made his lone foray into professional mixed martial arts in 2012 for CES MMA, scoring a knockout win over virtual unknown Vince Lucero.
At the end of the day, from a business perspective, nobody can fault the UFC for attempting to capitalize on Punk’s brand. Especially in today’s ‘Money Fight’ era. You certainly can’t blame Punk for trying to live out a dream, either.
Punk hasn’t commented publicly on his future plans following the loss, and regardless of what he does next, you have to respect his efforts. While the UFC’s “CM Punk experiment” has most likely run its course, let’s hope that Punk’s personal martial arts experiment has not. Regardless of whether he competes again, he can look back at his MMA journey with no regrets.