Since CM Punk (Phillip Jack Brooks) announced that he would make his MMA debut at the age of 37 in the largest Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the world, fans have been unsure of what they might see from him. Once that special announcement was made, both fans and fighters have been excited to see how well he transitions and what a solid athlete with legions of fans can bring to the sport. On the other hand, his announcement has left some fighters feeling really bitter. The reason being that some athletes have worked for years and have never stepped foot in the octagon. This causes a resentment rarely seen in professional sports, as what one has earned and what is deserved are coming into question. Others fighters view this as a great opportunity for the sport, as they know more fans and more eyeballs will be on the fights and eventually on them, if they fight on the same card.
Whether you decide to love or hate CM Punk and his upcoming fight in the UFC, you have to admire him for deciding to step into the octagon and show that it wasn’t all for show. With that in mind, here are 8 reasons he'll flourish and 8 reasons he'll flop.
16 Flop: Past and Present Injuries
First off, it would appear that his body won’t be able to hold up to the astonishing amount of physical trauma that takes place in those 15 minutes (if he's lucky) in the cage. As it is, the World of Pro Wrestling has already chewed him up and spit him back out. He started Wrestling in 1999 and continued all the way until 2014. CM Punk has turned 37 before ever stepping foot inside an actual sanctioned MMA fight and before his first ever fight, he has already sustained injuries to his arm, ribs, ankle and back. Some of those injuries have even required surgery. Most fighters, if and when plagued with such injuries or near the age that he is currently, have already decided it’s time to start coaching younger athletes and get out of the cage. CM Punk is doing the opposite of what everyone has done and it might lead to terrible results.
15 Flourish: Training, Training and More Training
Isolation and improvement. CM Punk has, to my knowledge, two houses. One of them is in Chicago and one of them is in Milwaukee. Of the two locations, Milwaukee is more isolated, offers less distraction and has Roufusport Gym. There is a schedule that looks like: wake up and train, take a mid-day nap, come back and train, go home, eat dinner, come to the evening classes. Quite simply, train.
Roufusport is one of the best gyms in the world with some of the best fighters in the world training there. CM Punk choosing to stay in Milwaukee and train, instead of remaining in Chicago or going to Las Vegas provides him with the fewest distractions and the best possible scenario for him to learn, improve and shock the world when he finally walks into the octagon.
14 Flop: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
His GI Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is far from being amazing. After a year and a half with nothing on his schedule but to train, he is still a white belt. It took him a year and some months to get just one stripe on his belt. If you don’t know, some schools in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) award stripes to show that you are not just an average white or blue belt, but a one or two stripe. This means you should be more experienced than other new white or blue belts. The stripe system works well, as it lets you know who is better or who has had more mat time. The average person would get a stripe in a year or possibly less. And they likely work full time jobs and have lives. CM Punk only has to train and even after the same amount of time as an average accountant, he is no further along.
13 Flourish: Training BJJ in a Gi and No-Gi
At the same time, his BJJ will likely still be solid. The Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu that he is learning is not nice. Some BJJ schools teach a very nice, pretty style of competition, but Carlson Gracie Sr does not teach that. Everything hurts.
Another fact that helps him is the fact that people who train to compete in MMA often skip training in the Gi. No one wants to wear the Gi because no one wears one in the octagon, so what’s the point?
Well, BJJ with a Gi is much slower, as everything becomes a weapon for your opponent and every spot of your body becomes a handle for them. The fact that CM Punk is training both with and without a Gi means he will have fundamental skills and an understanding of BJJ that a lot of MMA fighters are completely missing. If he sticks with the Carlson Gracie system he can do a lot of damage.
12 Flop: His In-Gym Fights Have Been Less Than Impressive
CM Punk has had a few in house fights that have not been that spectacular. If you don’t believe me, have you heard that he is impressing people? Have you read anywhere that he is going to unleash an unseen fury and shock the world? Think about any fighter or any video you’ve ever watched and listen to the way coaches or teammates anyone talk about a particular fighter. It’s always positive. People have literally heard nothing good or bad about him. In this case, the old adage is not true, as no news, is not good news. So far he has had multiple in-house (closed gym) fights to see how well he'll do. None of them have been eye opening experiences. Granted most people in the world would be slaughtered against Anthony Petti,s but do a quick video search and watch how well CM Punk, who outweighs Anthony Pettis by 20-30 pounds, does. You’ll notice the video goes to other people quickly as CM Punk is easily taken down and flopped on his back and Pettis is not known as someone who takes anyone down.
11 Flourish: Cardio Monster Machine
Cardio is the king of everything. If you have no cardio, you better hope you can end the fight in 30 seconds. If you can knock people out with the tap of a finger or dead lift 1000 pounds, you better hope it doesn’t go into rounds two or three because then cardio and the human heart's ability to functionally delivery oxygen throughout the body becomes more important than any skill you’ve ever learned.
CM Punk will have a level of cardio other fighters who run 10 miles up a mountain everyday can only dream of. A pro wrestling match is essentially a sprint. There is very little down time, as even if they're in a rest hold, they're just working on what to do next. The level of cardio for anyone to compete in that world is significantly higher than someone who is accustomed to creating distanceor stalling a take down as people do in other combat sports. CM Punk has a clear advantage of taking what people can throw at him for one round and then dragging them into deep waters and drowning them in rounds two and three.
10 Flop: No Martial Arts Background
CM Punk and his training background is not helping him any. Some fighters have come from a pro wrestling background. Easily the most successful and most talented of all of them is a man named Kazushi Sakuraba. But he trained in catch wrestling (submission wrestling) for years and was an amazing Japanese Freestyle Wrestler before he went into pro wrestling and walked into the Pride ring. The most famous on the American side is Brock Lesnar. However, Lesnar was a wrestler from the time he was a few years old all the way up through college, where he was still a great wrestler that used size, speed and some technique to obliterate people. CM Punk has none of that to fall back on. Look him up and let me know what you find on his college record, high school record or middle school record. I’ll even be happy if you tell me he played Pee-Wee football. There is nothing and a straight pro wrestler who comes only from pro wrestling has never done well in MMA. If you don't believe me, watch what happens when Mirko Cro Cop fought Alberto Del Rio (Dos Caras Jr.).
9 Flourish: MMA is Safer than Wrestling
Injuries. People might not realize this, but professional wrestlers have a significantly greater chance of injury than an MMA fighter, a boxer, an amateur wrestler, sprinter or almost any other athlete. You are talking about very large humans crashing all of their body weight down on another very large human, contorting and twisting themselves and constantly moving before winning or losing a match. Afterwards, they'll fit in another workout for the day, so that they can maintain the look they have cultivated, before getting on a bus or plane, going to another town and doing it again. CM Punk will finally have time to take a day off, take a slower training day, work with his body.
8 Flop: The Jiu-Jitsu CM Punk Does Have, Will be Completely Ineffective
CM Punk and his BJJ may not be effective in MMA. Personally, I’m really excited that he's learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the Carlson Gracie team and I'm really happy to see the training he has done with the Gi, especially considering I’ve actually trained with one of his coaches. But his BJJ will be very guard oriented. When put in a tight spot, he will pull guard and let another fighter control him. Now, this isn’t a bad spot for some people, as his coach Daniel, his teammate Anthony Pettis and many others have a ground game that is like a rattlesnake. Once they get you in their guard, they instantly latch on to a body part and take it with them. CM Punk will not be able to do this nearly as fast, as he is not nearly as agile or experienced as the people around him. Punk would be better off learning a very grinding, top heavy, 'never give up a single position' style. That would be boring for people to watch, but it’s a lot better than being underneath someone who's punching him in the face.
7 Flourish: Natural Weight and Normal Sized Humans
His weight is finally where it should be. People might not realize this, but CM Punk is not a big guy. I’ve met him, stood next to him and talked with him. I assure you, he is not a huge man. Brock Lesnar is a huge man. CM Punk was in the squared circle with monsters and, to compete in that environment, he bulked up a smallish frame so he could lift and move with those giants. CM Punk will be fighting at 170, which means his opponents will be much smaller for him and he’s already accustomed to moving and working with people far larger. The weight cut will be easy enough for him and he will finally be walking around and dealing with people at his natural weight. Now he is as strong as a 205 pound fighter, but in a 170 pound fighter package. That alone is going to be a complete game changer for him. He'll be able to pin someone against the cage and feel how light they are and smile at the gift that wrestling with monsters gave him.
6 Flop: Ring Rust Would be Something...
Ring rust is a term used when a fighter who has competed before takes time off for whatever reason and then comes back to fight. They always say, he is going to have ring rust, which means he won’t be as good as before since they have to recalibrate their timing, distance, the energy expended, the stress, the work involved and so on. CM Punk will have zero ring rust, but not in the not good way. He will have zero rust of any kind, as he has never been in an actual sanctioned MMA fight. He has never had to deal with the weight cut, the schedule, the fist flying in his face or the very hostile environment that a fist fight provides which teammates in a gym can never emulate. It would be better if they took him to Russia, gave him a different name like Comrade Punk and had him fight a few times there. Then he would at least come in with some ring something, rather than ring absolutely nothing.
5 Flourish: Unfazed by Fight Week
The attention will have zero effect on him. Having been under small gymnasium lights and working his way up to massive arenas, the 'holy crap' factor of being in the UFC, doing press obligations and interviews, and hearing Bruce Buffer say "the millions watching at home" will all be small potatoes for him. He has literally been in front of more people, at bigger arenas and scrutinized by more eyeballs than any other fighter in UFC history outside of (potentially) Brock Lesnar. All of the attention will do absolutely nothing to throw him off his game plan and the coaches and people around him will constantly be there to keep the machine moving along on its path to devouring the world, as whoever he faces isn't as accustomed to that.
4 Flop: His Striking will be Subpar
His striking will not be where it needs to be. Let me say now, Duke Roufus is without a doubt one of the greatest coaches for Muay Thai in MMA. Watch the video when Roufus is at Greg Jackson’s camp and talking with Jon Jones. Jones has been called one of the greatest fighters in the history of combat sports and, even Jones was still learning simple ways to bring his leg back to strike harder and conserve energy from Duke Roufus. Think about that, as advanced as Jon Jones is, he is still learning and perfecting basics from Duke Roufus.
So how do you imagine CM Punk, who is not in the same universe skill wise as Jon Jones, is handling his striking? The easiest way to understand it is there are levels in striking. Watch a good boxer, kickboxer or whoever. They have it figured out, as it looks smooth, accurate, and everything works. Look at a bad one, as they throw wild punches and have this herky jerky way of moving. CM Punk will not do well when the pads are off and someone smoother and better is walking straight up to him. If you want the best example, look how everyone said Ronda Rousey was an amazing striker and how she did against an actual world class boxer/kickboxer in Holly Holm.
3 Flourish: He has Grit
No pain, no gain. This is a very dated statement that really needs to be put to rest, but even with leading to injury, it’s that very mentality that helped CM Punk rise through the ranks of pro wrestling and what could make him rise through the ranks of MMA fighters. CM Punk is used to performing while injured. He’s accustomed to showing up far below 100%, putting life and his aches aside and doing his job. Many people in today’s fighting world have become soft. Which is odd, as they have become more crosstrained and capable fighters than the previous generations, but they have gotten softer and, some might say, smarter with their bodies. People in the early days of the UFC showed up, found out who they were fighting that day, went and fought them, and if they won, went and fought two other guys that same night. It seems barbaric now to do that, but that was the world then and that’s the world CM Punk is used to. Show up, do your job and maybe get thrown out into the ring later that night to do it a few more times. Push through pain and injuries, deal with life and travel and keep marching forward into the enemy until you become champion.
2 Flop: His First Opponent is No Joke
Mickey Gall. There's your number one reason that he'll fail. It’s as simple as that. He is a BJJ Purple belt (as of last month, at least). In his last fight, he knocked out a guy with a world of boxing experiences and then after knocking him down with a punch, he quickly latched on for a choke. Mickey Gall is a young, athletic, long and rangy. He's a talented fighter that has little problem making weight and has put in time as an amateur, put in a little time as a pro and hasn’t even been challenged by fighters with more experience and technique. He’s a very dangerous individual who does nothing but day dream about how to get better as a fighter and how he can get more and more fights. Mickey Gall is nowhere near the best in the world as of this writing, but he's better than CM Punk.
1 Flourish: Finally has a Place to Call Home
The number one reason he'll succeed is a mixture of the things that could still cause him to lose. His inexperience means he has no bad habits. He is a sponge, learning from the best in the world and he doesn’t have to break the bad habits he's learned from coaches and fighters along the way. Fighters have bad habits, some work on them and some never figure them out.
For example, Chael Sonnen sucks at triangle choke defense. He never improved at dealing with them as the fights went on. CM Punk is a mystery and all the bad habits he picks up now are instantly thrown out by champion fighters and coaches telling him what really works and what doesn’t.
Also, he’s home. This moment in his career is light years easier than his previous career because the grind of being on the road is gone. He gets to go home, see his family, work with his friends and not have to worry about town names, what to eat, where to eat, where to workout, how to work out and whatever else. It's a grind, but it's a much better to go home at the end of every day rather than checking into another hotel room. For that reason alone, he's already won.