Whether it’s professional wrestling, comic book writing or making the transition from performing in the squared circle to competing in the Octagon—CM Punk has a dogged, hard-nosed approach to tackling any of his passions in life.
You can accuse CM Punk of many things. But, you can’t question his desire and unsurmountable self-belief.
That aforementioned attitude has been a necessity since both CM Punk (otherwise lesser-known as Phil Brooks) and the UFC announced the former WWE superstar would be competing in the UFC before he had even formally trained at an MMA gym.
Both parties were heavily criticised by MMA’s often overly-rabid fan base—with the UFC accused of cheapening their product for a quick buck, while CM Punk was scrutinised for cutting in line and earning a UFC contract without having fought before. But, neither CM Punk nor the UFC were deterred from this money-spinning move.
As you’d expect, many MMA fighters—even those already competing at the highest level in the UFC—continuously called the proud Chicago native out for a big-money fight. The man who is grasping the golden ticket is New Jersey upstart Mickey Gall, who was first spotted on Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight.
The head of steam built for CM Punk’s debut has waned somewhat, having suffered a shoulder injury and a back injury so debilitating he was forced to undergo surgery. The retired WWE superstar’s entry to the UFC roster was announced at the tail end of 2014 and he will only make his debut almost two years down the line against Gall in September 2016 at UFC 203 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The hiatus imposed by unfortunate injury had led fans to question how much CM Punk really wanted to fight in the UFC now he’d signed on the dotted line of a lucrative contract—questions which have been continually rubbished by both CM Punk and the UFC brass.
Despite his debut’s flagging momentum, CM Punk has managed to keep his name relevant through sporadic appearances in the press. He is a former professional wrestler after all. The latest move to maintain relevancy and promote his newly re-announced fight with Gall, CM Punk conducted an interview with Colin Cowherd on his radio show The Herd. (H/T Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting)
It was a largely unremarkable interview on the face of it, though he did claim the WWE treat their wrestlers like “indentured servants,” which was particularly galling. But, that pales into comparison to the most ear-catching comment he made in his brief discourse with Cowherd.
When talking about his reams of doubters, CM Punk said: "I know people think this is a publicity stunt, I'm never going to set foot in the Octagon. I look forward to proving them wrong, but to me, it's not super far-fetched to be like, 'You know what? What if I put three or four wins together? Who's to say I don't get a title shot?'”
It would be churlish to laugh at such a claim. After all, there is history of former WWE megastars walking into the UFC and earning quick title shots. But, then CM Punk is no Brock Lesnar. Not only was Lesnar one of the most successful amateur wrestlers in US history, but the freak athlete made his UFC debut against a former UFC heavyweight champion in Frank Mir with a sole professional bout to his credit before that. With all due respect to Gall, he is not yet at the calibre of a Frank Mir.
However unrealistic the idea, such a statement is testament to the will of CM Punk - fuelled by those who have dismissed his chances of even stepping into the cage in the first place, let alone emerging the victor.
This attitude is represented further as he continued: “I'm a very positive-thinking person,” he reflected. “Of course I'm not going to saddle myself with this negativity that's, 'Oh, that's it for me'. Because to me in life, it's so cliché and it sounds so corny, so Karate Kid-like, but it's not about getting knocked down. It's about how many times you get up. That's why I train the way I do. I get knocked down in training every day, so on Sept. 10th I won't get knocked down.
"To wrestling fans who say, 'Oh, this is B.S.'... The ones who say I'm going to fight one time are the same ones now saying I'm never going to make it to the Octagon. That's for them to say. They're entitled to their opinion, but I'll prove them all wrong."
At 37-years-old and very much green to the fighting game, it’s unlikely we’ll see the UFC gold wrapped around CM Punk’s waist like we saw during his WWE exploits. But, with a smart, unshakeably-determined mindset and two years of tutelage under Duke Roufus at his Milwaukee-based Roufusport gym, it will be damn interesting to see if his comments carry any weight.
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