CM Punk attended UFC Fight Night 82 in February to watch Mickey Gall, who was going to become his debut opponent with a win over Mike Jackson. Less than a week later, he underwent back surgery.
The former professional wrestler has been on the mend since then, and on Monday he discussed the diagnoses and the continued delay of his MMA career in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.
Punk explained that he got his diagnoses just before that February event, and said the reaction from UFC President Dana White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta was drastically different than he expected after his time in the WWE.
“[They handled it] wonderfully, in my opinion,” Punk said. “I was in with Dana and Lorenzo, and we were talking, and Dr. Sanders just came up and he goes, ‘alright, here it is.’ He laid it all on the table for us. Of course, Dana lets out this big sigh, and he’s like, ‘ugh, we can’t get a break.’ So immediately I go into, ‘well, maybe there’s a shot I can get? Maybe I can do cortisone? Whatever.’ And Lorenzo and Dana stop me, and they went, ‘no, no, no, it is what it is. We just want you to get fixed and get healthy. We have shows every month, don’t worry about it.’
“It’s just, the timing sucked. I’m literally about to walk out and do this thing [at UFC Fight Night 82]. And they were great. It’s hard not to compare and contrast to where I used to work before. It was just a relief to finally have a boss who was like, ‘no, no, just get fixed, we want you 100-percent, we want you to be healthy,’ not interested in throwing a band-aid on a bullet wound just to parade me out in front of people. So it was a relief, and it felt nice.”
Though the delay in his debut has many doubting if the 37-year-old will actually ever make an appearance in the Octagon, Punk said he’s still putting forth “optimistic goals,” and is trying to look at the silver lining of getting that injury fixed.
“It was certainly a bitter pill to swallow, but there is a flipside to the coin that I was trying to focus on,” Punk said. “That, holy s***, I have a herniated disk and I have had this herniated disk. Who knows how long I’ve had it? I was relieved to get properly diagnosed and it was exciting almost to go, okay, we can take care of this, and then when I come back I’ll be 100-percent. Because there’s always little things.
“If I got taken down, sometimes that put me on the shelf for a couple days. So it was a relief to go, oh wow, remember when that happened in the gym? Or, remember when I did this? There’s been things I omitted from training just because it bothered me. On days where I would work on kicks all day, it f***ed me up the next day. Now we took care of it and that won’t happen anymore, so I was really, in that moment when I was watching the fight, just kind of excited for, oh man, let’s fix this, and I’m not going to have that nagging – literally – pain in my ass anymore.”
Penick’s Analysis: I’m closer to the side believing he will eventually fight, but even those optimistic about that actually happening have to admit the multiple setbacks don’t support that. If it was a nagging issue that was making it hard for him to train, getting it fixed and healing up should allow him to work more effectively than he had been. He’s probably not going to amount to much of an actual MMA fighter, but that’s as much the case as it was prior to the surgery. He’s still taking his attempt at the endeavor seriously, but the waiting game continues.
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