HISCOE’S TAKE: Floyd Mayweather can solve UFC’s CM Punk problem

Mike Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

C.M. Punk (artist Grant Gould © MMATorch)

CM Punk fighting Floyd Mayweather in the UFC may sound absurd, but it might just be the perfect fight for the UFC in 2018.

The prospect of a Floyd Mayweather-CM Punk mixed martial arts fight, as unlikely as it is, has all the makings of a classic Ultimate Fighting Championship matchup, and as the UFC celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018, the timing couldn’t be better.

Of course, the timing is never wrong to get combat sports’ biggest drawing card in your promotion, but with UFC taking some time to acknowledge its past this year, the bout makes some sense.

The early UFC tournaments were largely sold on style versus style, “what if” propositions. What if a karate fighter fought a taekwondo practitioner? What if a sumo wrestler fought a jiu jitsu ace? This curiosity had fueled barroom arguments for ages, and played out in those early UFCs where we saw that jiu jitsu and eventually wrestling were the dominant disciplines for no holds barred fighting.

But what if an all-time great boxer fought a professional wrestler?

We saw this when Muhammad Ali fought Antonio Inoki back in 1976 in a bizarre and infamous mixed-rules matchup that may have shortened Ali’s boxing career but Floyd Mayweather taking on CM Punk would likely play out much differently if for no other reason than the ruleset alone wouldn’t make Punk laying on his back, kicking Mayweather’s legs a practical strategy.

The intrigue and “what if” factor is there for Mayweather-Punk where it wouldn’t be if Mayweather were to have an MMA contest with Conor McGregor or, really, any other UFC fighter. Punk’s lack of MMA acumen is what makes this fight truly compelling and potentially competitive. The “what if” here lies in the question of does CM Punk’s head start in MMA training over Mayweather outweigh the clear physical and skill advantages Mayweather brings to the fight. Does 3-4 years of MMA training at a professional camp beat out a lifetime of elite boxing training and performance coupled with only a few weeks or months of MMA preparation?

Early oddsmakers seem to think so. BetDSI has Punk as a -300 favorite to win a potential matchup with Mayweather. How, you say? The betting site told Bloody Elbow that Punk’s size advantage and ground training gives him the edge.

Such a matchup would also solve the CM Punk problem UFC has on their hands. Punk made half-a-million dollars plus pay-per-view points for his debut against Mickey Gall at UFC 203. His performance was dreadful to say the least but Punk has the desire to continue fighting, whether it be in UFC or elsewhere. This leaves UFC with the option to find a low enough level fighter that Punk can be competitive with, feed him to another prospect as they did with Gall, or release him and risk him signing with a competitor, either Bellator or even Rizin.

Punk fighting an equally inexperienced fighter does little for anyone involved past some one-night curiosity, Punk against a legitimate rising star won’t have the same effect as it did with Gall as the genie is out of the bottle now where Punk is concerned, and letting Punk go leaves money on the table, something the current UFC is unwilling to do.

Booking Punk against Mayweather would maximize the value UFC can get out of CM Punk. It allows Mayweather to compete in MMA (assuming that is something he actually wants to do) but in a way where he can fight an opponent with name value, but still have a shot at winning.

It also creates a fight for Punk that will generate enough revenue that UFC can overlook any long-term damage it may cause. This is seemingly UFC’s modus operandi in 2018.

Economically, Floyd Mayweather fighting in UFC is a longshot at best. Mayweather commands the kind of money UFC isn’t used to paying out. But if there is some smoke to the rumor that Mayweather is considering MMA, “Money” vs. Punk is the fight to make.

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