CM Punk recently made a monumental return to the WWE after nearly 10 years away from the company. His return sent shockwaves across not only the wrestling world, but the entire sports universe itself. However, Punk is more than a wrestling icon.
As a die-hard MMA fan, I can’t help but look back on his brief stint with the UFC. One that left much to be desired…
Journey Into MMA
Upon leaving the WWE in 2014, CM Punk would venture into the world of mixed martial arts, inking a multi-fight contract with the UFC that same year. By 2015, CM Punk would begin training under well-known MMA coach Duke Roufus in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. About the best coaching one can get, especially for a guy with quite literally zero fighting experience.
After years of training and overcoming injuries, Punk was finally set to make his UFC debut in 2016 against Mickey Gall. Ironically, in the Quicken Loans Arena, the same venue which he retired from professional wrestling. But before we get into that first UFC fight, I’m curious to know who was responsible for booking Punk vs. Gall. It is easy to say things in hindsight. But even before this fight took place, I had a very bad feeling about it. You were essentially throwing a fairly untrained rookie fighter into the deep end with a professional killer.
The fight would play out exactly as expected.
First UFC Fight
Punk shockingly starts the fight walking straight towards Gall and got right in his face. He immediately paid for it, as Gall would shoot a double leg and take him down to the canvas. Unfortunately for Punk, he would not get back to his feet. Gall punished him with devastating shots and submission attempts from the ground. The fight would last just over 2 minutes before Gall had Punk in a rear naked choke, forcing him to tap out in his MMA debut. Punk was left battered and bloodied with nothing more than a “believe in yourself kids” promo post fight.
Second UFC Fight
To the shock of many, Punk was rewarded a second chance in the UFC after a rough debut. He would return at UFC 225 in 2018 against Mike Jackson, this time in his hometown of Chicago.
While this second fight was far more competitive than the first, Punk was clearly still an amateur in MMA. The fight did go the full three rounds, but he was outmatched due to a lack of experience and time in the sport. Sure, he was not finished, but he was losing the entire fight. Fans even speculated his opponent, Mike Jackson, could have finished Punk had he taken the fight seriously. Through two fights in the UFC, it just did not look good for Punk as a mixed martial artist.
Immediately following the Mike Jackson loss, UFC President Dana White implied that this was the last we would see of Punk in the UFC. Fortunately for Punk, his MMA record would return to 0-1. A few years later, the Punk-Jackson bout was ruled a no contest due to Jackson testing positive for marijuana.
In the summer of 2021, it was announced that CM Punk would retire from MMA and return to the world of pro wrestling. A more fitting move for someone who cut his teeth in that industry. What would ensue is perhaps one of the most intriguing stories in the history of the business. One that fans are all too familiar with by now…
When you look back on CM Punk’s time in the UFC/MMA, nothing really surprises me. The results were to be expected. Especially considering you threw a guy with no amateur experience into the most competitive fight league in the world. Regardless of how hard he trained or who he hired, you cannot catch up as far as muscle memory and experience in the game with such little time. Even the mastermind himself, Duke Roufus, was only able to fix so much in the short time they had.
UFC Career Resume
One thing that really upset UFC fans was his placement on the pay-per-views. In his first fight, Punk was not only on the main card but was one of the last three fights of the night. In his second UFC fight, Punk was placed on the main card once again, placed over matchups like Curtis Blaydes vs. Alistair Overeem. It would be absolutely shocking to see a guy with no experience whatsoever get those spots in any top promotion. But when you realize the popularity and that CM Punk is literally a wrestling icon, then it’s not that surprising.
Due to some unsealed financial documents in an ongoing lawsuit against the UFC, we now know exactly how much Punk was making in the company. According to Bloody Elbow, Punk was paid just over a million dollars to make the walk at UFC 203 in 2016. For those wondering, this is an astronomical amount compared to 99% of other UFC fighters. To put it in perspective, new UFC fighters typically start out making $10,000 to show, plus an additional $10,000 if they win. Even the former UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou, was making roughly just $600,000 per fight as a belt holder of the organization.
So at the very least, CM Punk was able to get some good money out of his MMA venture.
Punk’s enjoyment for the sport of mixed martial arts still seems to be there. Since 2018, the pro wrestling icon has has been working as a commentator for the Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC). Given his new WWE schedule, it will be interesting to see how much of those duties he can still uphold. Nonetheless, it seems to be something he enjoys and does a great job at.
All jokes aside, CM Punk is truly a wrestling icon and it is good to see him back in a world where he is comfortable and thrives. With his shocking return to WWE at Survivor Series, Punk has been the talk of the town. At 45 years of age, it will be interesting to see how much he still has to offer the fans that have continually chanted his name since he left.