If you’ve ever seen C.M. Punk handle a microphone (whether visible or otherwise) in a pro wrestling setting, you’re likely aware of the fact that he’s one of the truly great talkers that industry has produced in the last 20 twenty years. He spoke with such confidence and carried himself in such a way that thousands of pro wrestling fans across the country still chant his name on a near weekly basis, years after his departure from WWE.
However, if you’ve only seen Punk conduct himself on camera in a mixed martial arts setting, you’re likely wondering what all the hoopla is about. Despite his cult of personality, these days Punk sounds like every MMA fighter you’ve ever heard. He never misses an opportunity to talk about how his team is the best in the world, how he’s in the best shape of his life, or any of the other platitudes MMA fighters tend to use that make them seem bland and fungible.
So where did all of his personality go? Was it all drained from him once he closed the door on his pro wrestling career? It’s much more likely that all the bravado was beaten out of him and swabbed off the mats after his first day of sparring at Roufusport.
At UFC 203, Punk is going step into the Octagon to take on Mickey Gall, a man Punk has no advantages against. Gall is 13 years Punk’s junior, has three amateur fights, two professional fights, and has been able to finish four of the five men he’s competed against. He also isn’t coming off shoulder and back surgery like Punk is.
Punk’s years of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training is thought by some to be a potential ace up his sleeve, but the reality is that the mat is probably the last place he’d want to be with Gall. Mickey Gall is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown-belt who went the distance in a match in the expert division against Gordon Ryan last year at the NAGA World Championship.
Everyone knows that it’s Punk’s name that affords him a spot in Octagon, but the UFC matching him up with Gall suggests that they aren’t interested in getting him an easy win to milk fan interest. They went out and found him opposition that’s about as stiff as could possibly be expected for a fighter’s MMA debut.
On the business side of things, you have to wonder how satisfied the UFC is with their investment. Is the UFC getting who they thought they were getting when they signed him almost two years ago? If Punk isn’t willing to talk up his fights, is he going to be able to bring enough pro wrestling fans to the table to justify his signing?
Punk could get savaged by Gall in such a way that the UFC simply decides not to offer him another fight. How would a possible WWE return go after that? Due to the nature of Punk’s exit, his WWE return is by no means a lock, but his brand would still take a pretty big hit if his enduring MMA legacy is getting absolutely washed by Mickey Gall.
The likelihood of Punk getting smashed this Saturday notwithstanding, what he’s attempting is every bit as admirable as it is foolhardy. He’s a 37-year-old ex-pro wrestler with millions of dollars in his bank account, tons of miles on his body, and even required two surgeries just to get here. But the fact remains he got here. He’s set to make the walk at UFC 203 and the truth about what he can do against a legitimate opponent after two years of MMA training is going to come out one way or another.
Punk is going to fight in the Octagon and that’s something to be respected. In fact, the pro wrestling fan in me would love to wish him luck. But of course, luck is for losers.
(MMATorch columnist Jason Amadi is back after an absence of several years. It’s great to have him back writing a weekly column. Follow him on Twitter @JasonAmadi.)