“EVOLUTION OF PUNK” EPISODE 1 RECAP: Punk’s earliest training after signing with UFC, Punk wants to inspire kids, works out with Anthony Pettis, home life

By James Caldwell, Torch assistant editor

C.M. Punk UFC Documentary
“Evolution of Punk: The Ground Up”
Airdate: August 15, 2016
Aired on Fox Sports 1

Monday night while Raw was airing on USA Network, Fox Sports 1 aired a half-hour documentary on C.M. Punk’s journey from WWE to UFC, promoting Punk’s first pro fight at UFC 203 on September 10 in Cleveland.

The documentary opened with a look back to January 2015 when C.M. Punk started training after signing with UFC. The documentary showed still-shots of Punk’s pro wrestling action and highlighted Punk leaving wrestling to compete in UFC. Back in December 2014, Punk said this is his new career.

Driving in his car, Punk said he hopes to inspire kids to pursue their dreams, especially to do something people are telling them they shouldn’t even try, and he’ll feel good about putting in this work to train for UFC.

The documentary blasted the classic “C-M Punk” wrestling chant over grainy footage of Punk’s training before jumping into the documentary.

Noted was Punk driving three hours from Chicago to Wisconsin to train for MMA. He said he used to do this drive on the wrestling independent scene, so this is no problem for him. Punk arrived at Roufusport in January 2015 to begin his training.

Punk was shown receiving instruction on his technique working with Duke Roufus about learning how to professionally fight. Punk was shown struggling through some of the techniques. Punk said this training is super-challenging, he’s sore, and he’s tired. “It’s all up in the air,” Punk said at the time of whether he would make it through the training as the doc cut to break.

[Commercial Break. A spot for the “WWE 2K17” video game focusing on Brock Lesnar aired.]

Back on the air, the documentary showed Punk back home in Chicago walking his dog through frigid weather. Punk returned to the house with donuts for himself and his wife, former women’s wrestler A.J. Lee. This was back when A.J. was on WWE television and she joked that she must “bare her midriff” on television, so she can’t eat all of these donuts. Punk joked back to cover up.

Punk talked about A.J. being a super-awesome human being. He said he ruined his fair share of relationships because of pro wrestling, and he didn’t want to ruin this one. So, he got out of wrestling. Punk said he wanted to make sure his marriage was healthy. He said A.J. isn’t a huge MMA fan, so she doesn’t understand all of the nuances. Then, when he started explaining it to her, she started to understand why he was doing this.

Back to Punk working at Roufusport. Punk was trying to work on learning how to apply his training in a fight situation to understand his opponents and what to do when.

Back at the house, Punk and A.J. were hanging out at the house. A.J. was concerned about Punk getting hit in the face during his training. She vowed to visit his training one day to see if she’s ready to see him get hit. Punk smooched her up.

Back at training, Punk worked on his technique with UFC fighter Anthony Pettis. Punk was concerned about being too physical, having to distance himself from his wrestling background of protecting the person he’s facing.

[Commercial Break]

Punk was back on the road from Chicago to Milwaukee. Punk recalled his childhood of his dad having alcoholic struggles and his mom having pain pill addiction. Punk didn’t understand why his parents put themselves first. One day he decided not to go home. He said he didn’t fit into any group in high school. When he was 15, he discovered Straight Edge and he decided that was for him. Punk said his first life goal was to be a wrestler, and that’s all. Now, he realizes he has a reach and he would like to use that for good.

Flash-forward to February 2015 at a comic book appearance in Chicago. Fans lined up outside of the comic shop to meet Punk, including a female fan who got emotional over meeting him. Punk tried to stay humble about the experience, deflecting her being star-struck to meet him. Her dad thanked Punk for inspiring his daughter, since she’s carrying it over to school. Punk said he knows there are people all over the world who are pulling for him and fans of his.

Punk said he is 100 percent doing this UFC journey for himself all the way, but if he inspires one person to do something they were told they couldn’t do, then they have all done their jobs.

Now in March 2015, Punk worked on his striking and blocking. Punk said that because of the outside perception of him as a pro wrestler, people dogged his athletic ability. In the middle of training, Punk took a pretend Stunner from Ben Askren, then comically sold it, trying to play along and not make a big deal about trying to distance himself from what he used to do.

[Commercial Break]

Back on the road, Punk said he believes in having a positive mental attitude. He said he envisions every scenario and just wants an opponent to face. Punk said he thinks he will win because of his mental approach, and he doesn’t think enough fighters have the same approach.

Still in March 2015, it was time for Punk’s first sparring session. Punk was taped up to prepare for his first simulated fight. Duke Roufus told Punk to take his stage presence from wrestling into the fight. Punk left the office with Anthony Pettis and walked into the cage as other fighters watched. Craig Eckelberg was presented as Punk’s opponent.

In Round 1, Punk went on the offensive with strikes and knees. Punk left himself open for a take down, then tried to fight against it. Punk ended up in a choke, but made it to the second round.

In Round 2, Punk left himself open to another take down, but this time he blocked it and stopped Craig’s momentum. But, Craig reversed him into a chokehold and Punk had to tap. Punk had a deer in the headlights look trying to gather himself for a simulated third round.

In Round 3, Punk found himself in another take down, but Punk used the cage wall to defend against it. Punk got locked in an armbar submission, which he tried to fight against by slipping out and reversing momentum. Punk managed to get on Craig’s back he and pounded him with right hand strikes, but Craig reversed into another armbar. Punk had to tap.

Craig was declared the winner, then other students congratulated Punk on his first simulated fight. Leaving to the office, Punk said he feels like they have a baseline now. Roufus said Punk had to feel it out there. He said his older brother was a world champion fighter and constantly beat him up, so it took him a long time to get good. Punk said he had no great visions of coming in here to be a world-class fighter. Roufus tried to talk him down that he did good and he never puts someone out there that quickly. He said he’s proud of him.

Back in Chicago, Punk ran through the snow continuing his training. Punk rock music played as Punk talked about this not being pro wrestling. “This is actually real,” Punk said. They flashed through more training footage of Punk trying to get better.

Back at the house, Punk and A.J. hung out doing life together. More footage of Punk running through Chicago as he called this the biggest challenge of his life. He said he wants to show the world what’s inside him. Punk said this is UFC’s world, and he’s just getting started.

On the next episode… Punk continues his training and talks to Dana White. So, this will be a series. Until they noted the series continues, it felt like just Chapter 1 of the story from the preliminary training in 2015. So, the journey continues leading to UFC 203.

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