CM Punk’s UFC debut Saturday at UFC 203 was exactly what we all thought it would be: ugly, one-sided, and over quick. The biggest positives we can take from the fight are that Punk wasn’t seriously hurt, that opponent Mickey Gall will probably have a decent run in the promotion if the UFC can develop him slow, and that Punk at least got to live out his dream.
From day one, I’ve said that CM Punk deserves the respect of the media and fans for rolling the dice, sticking his neck out, and trying to live his dream. The problem is, he started too late in life (hey, I’ve hung around the gym a little too, and one of these days I’ll get more involved, but I’m not about to think I can make it in the UFC, myself being the same age as Phil Brooks), set the bar too high, and was only allowed to reach for such lofty, unrealistic expectations due to his celebrity.
MMA is a business, and in 2016, we know that. We knew it before WME-IMG plunked down over four billion dollars to buy the world’s premiere mixed martial arts promotion. So it’s no surprise that the UFC wanted to cash in on Punk. The UFC has been spectacle over sport the past while, as much as they’d like to pretend otherwise with uniforms and rankings. Otherwise, Conor McGregor would not have had two straight welterweight fights against Nate Diaz while holding the 145-pound title.
So the conditions were ripe for an experiment like the Punk one, just like they were ripe for James Tooney to jump in the cage as a boxer and embarrass himself against Randy Couture.
Now? The experiment must be over.
Following his loss at UFC 203, which saw Gall quickly take him down and submit him with a rear-naked choke, Punk talked about coming back, and fighting again. In the UFC? No thanks. Dana White and co. need to take this opportunity to shake Punk’s hand, say thanks for the ratings, and give him his walking papers. They’d be doing the man a favor, and prevent him from further embarrassing himself.
See, while Punk may see it as pushing himself, he has also given in to his pride. Punk thinks, if he can keep plugging away in training, that he’ll get the hang of this fighting thing. That he’ll win a fight. And live the dream the way it played out in his head, no doubt for many years.
Sorry Punk, it’s not to be. Not at a top level.
Oh, the UFC has options. They could push Punk through a season of The Ultimate Fighter. He’d get some amateur experience that way, the show would no doubt see a spike in the ratings, but at the end of the day? It’s doubtful he’d find any success on the show. And whether that would be better than just getting back in the gym at Roufusport is questionable.
Or they could give Punk another fight, against Mike Jackson — the part time fighter Mickey Gall was given to crush in his first UFC fight. That was the promotion padding Gall’s record, plain and simple. They might have thought, at the time, that Punk would be able to handle Gall, and wanted the bout between the two to be a little more legit. Well, it didn’t matter in the end, but there’s a chance Punk would be able to find success against Jackson, who is a part timer who moonlights as an MMA journalist.
Other than those options? What’s the UFC to do, start recruiting in local gyms looking for amateurs pushing forty?
No, Punk needs a dose of reality here, if he didn’t already get one last night. And the UFC needs to give it to him. Cut him, as a fighter. Keep him around on commentary, maybe, or in a fan ambassador role. He can at least say he gave it his all, and for that, there should be nothing but respect for the man.
In the cage? Lets hope he’s done, at least with the UFC. If he wants to take a step down in competition and fight elsewhere, fair enough. He might actually have a shot there. Otherwise? Again, this experiment, as far as the UFC in concerned, needs to be over.