After years of hype, CM Punk finally made his long awaited MMA debut in the sports highest organization at UFC 203 on Saturday night. And much like many had expected – and most cases cheered for – Punk was dismantled early in the first round, losing to Mickey Gall in just over two minutes. And while the internet world exploded with “Told you so’s” and “He’s too old!” or “He didn’t deserve it anyway“, Punk told the world the entire reason for this fight: to show that win or lose, at least he had the courage to follow a dream. That either victor or slain, he would still be a better man than the one who was too scared to even make the effort to attempt.
— #UFC203 (@ufc) September 11, 2016
Anyone who saw CM Punk’s WWE DVD Best in the World knows that the man also known as Phil Brooks has always been an underdog who used that shadow of doubt – cast by his family, friends and more – as motivation to pursue each and every dream he’s ever had. A loner in a world where people often took his aggressive and seemingly blind ambition as a symbol of his selfishness to be noticed, when in reality it was just his unwillingness to stop striving for greatness even when “smarter people” have told him it was an impossibility.
CM Punk’s departure from the WWE was the biggest news of the year in the wrestling industry in 2014, in part because of a similar angle used in the company in 2011 when his contract was expiring. But this time it was very real. Upset with the direction of his character and the seeming glass ceiling within the company itself, CM Punk walked away from the company he’d called home since 2006 and the industry he’d known since 1999. Despite being a seven time World champion in professional wrestling (5x WWE, 1x ECW, 1x ROH) and one of the industry’s most popular Superstars and most influential performers, he walked away from the game.
“For a long time, the demands of my schedule as a professional wrestler forced me to prioritize my job over everything else in my life. My family, my health and my own ambitions had to be placed on the backburner. I gave everything I had to the job. But my time as a professional wrestler didn’t just end — it reached a conclusion. I achieved everything I wanted to in that arena, even beyond what I ever dreamed was possible. I had thought about trying something else for a long time before I actually made the move to MMA. And now that I’ve done it, I know I’ll never look back. My reasons for pursuing MMA were simple. First off, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. More important, it makes me happy. For a long time, I didn’t really consider those things.”
After months of speculation, on December 6, 2014 at UFC 181, Punk announced he had signed a multi-fight deal with UFC. A month later he joined the camp of Duke Roufus at Roufusport (trainer of such MMA fighters as Anthony Pettis, Alan Belcher, Ben Rothwell and Ben Askren).
And after missteps, misstarts and rumours, the weekend finally arrived. The PPV buy rates aren’t in yet, but you can imagine that having Punk on the card definitely helped. Whether it was MMA purists watching to see a “fake” wrestler get beat up by a “real” fighter or a wrestling fan hoping for a glimpse of validation in a miraculous Punk victory (or the internet elite who were wrestling fans and wanted Punk’s smug face knocked clean off), people were talking about this match and the journey CM Punk took to get to this one, two minutes and fourteen seconds moment of his life.
But no matter what happens beyond this moment, CM Punk showed he had the guts to do what very few people in this life ever have the gumption to do. Step out from one successful dream and take a chance starting over with another. And he did it. And like he said post fight, “Sometimes the outcome isn’t always what you desire it to be…but the true failure in life is not trying at all.”
For years in the WWE, CM Punk called himself the “Voice of the Voiceless”, speaking for the guys in the back who were ignored, who came from an indie circuit that was scorned by the mainstream, for the wrestling fans who didn’t want to follow the status quo.
“I know there’s a lot of doubters, but, you know, life’s about falling down and getting up. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it’s about getting back up. So if there’s any kid out there that’s told by a parent, a coach, a teacher, or somebody that they look up to, somebody that’s supposed to push them and believe in them and they’re told NO…don’t listen to them. Believe in yourself.”
CM Punk, Post Fight Interview, UFC 203
At UFC 203, Punk once again became the Voice of the Voiceless. For every person stagnating at something they once loved, he showed that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself towards another, maybe forgotten dream. “I know that sounds preachy,” Punk continued, “And kind of weird from a guy who just got beat up, but f**k it, this is the time of my life.”
To the dismay of some, this will not be Punk’s last fight. Whether UFC risks another match with Punk or not, he will fight again. He’s tasted the Octagon. And though it was just for over two minutes, it’s now in his blood. And if Phil Brooks has shown anything in his 37 years on this planet, is that he’s one stubborn son of a bitch.
Punk’s Not Dead.
He’s just heading back to Milwaukee to regroup.
Main Photo: UFC.com