When CM Punk announced at UFC 181 that he was transitioning from WWE to the UFC, it was met with more scrutiny than positive vibes. The consensus was, 'who does this guy think he is that he can get a contract with the premiere MMA organization in the world without ever having a fight or a background in the sport?'
People thought it was a publicity stunt to help the UFC and Punk to keep their names in the headlines.
Many thought he wouldn't take this seriously. Those same people thought he would never fight after surgery to his back to repair a herniated disk. They saw it as an excuse. But, the UFC did book the fight between Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks and Mickey Gall for UFC 203. Many still had their doubts about him making the walk to the octagon.
Well, Punk made it to Cleveland. He trolled media and fans, claiming to have issues with his weight cut.
The Chicago native made the welterweight championship weight of 170 pounds when he could have weighed 171 pounds since it was a non-title fight. Then, he made the walk no one thought he would make.
Few outside of his friends, family and teammates at Roufusport thought he could beat Gall. The doubters were right -- Punk did nothing in the fight and Gall made it look easy, winning by submission in just two minutes and 14 seconds.
After UFC 203 ended, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg were breaking down the fight, and Rogan let loose. He gave Punk a backhanded compliment before targeting the former WWE Champion.
“I admire CM Punk for taking the chance, I really do," Rogan said. "But, it was delusional. That’s my feeling, it was my feeling watching him hit the bag, when I was watching him punch things. It’s not like he can’t ever learn, but there’s a journey as a martial artist. There’s a path that each martial artist is on and different people are on different paths. There’s a reason why brown belts don’t compete with white belts in jiu-jitsu tournaments. It’s not fair, and what we saw tonight was not fair. Mickey Gall’s way better, he’s really good.”
Sorry to burst Rogan's bubble and the majority of the fight fans and media -- CM Punk wasn't delusional in fighting at UFC 203.
People have criticized Punk for taking the opportunity presented, claiming he took the shot from somebody else. Many felt it he going through a Welterweight Fantasy Camp with UFC 203 as the destination.
Let's remember, Punk planned on competing either way and had no problem starting in the lower level. It was Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta who reached out to him and flew to Chicago in Oct. 2014. If the two most powerful people in the sport offer you a contract for an unbelievable amount of money, how would one react? Would you fight for low-level money without maximum exposure? Of course not. Why would you turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do, much less yourself?
The former WWE champion took this venture seriously, and treated it as such. He went to train at one of the top gyms in the world, was trained by Duke Roufus, and worked with some of the best fighters in the world in UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis and current ONE welterweight champ Ben Askren. He was getting the best training humanly possible and would be properly prepared for combat.
From talking to those at Roufusport, he was usually the first one in the gym and among the last to leave. He didn't have to do that, but Punk wanted to just be a regular guy on the team.
Punk went into the octagon and got smoked by Gall. He had no offense whatsoever and provided no challenge to the New Jersey native. Punk looked like a fighter who didn't belong in the UFC or any major promotion.
You had a man at the age of 37, with no athletic experience and about 19 months of training, step in the cage against Gall, who was in his fifth career fight, and the beneficiary 8 years of training. The experience showed, and the right man won.
But CM Punk wasn't delusional in the slightest bit. He probably knew he wasn't going to win the fight. The victory for him was the journey and making the walk into the octagon. He got paid a lot of money, but he had no shortage of that in the first place.. He did this to test himself.
For those saying this is 'one-and-done,' it's not. He'll continue to fight regardless of where the bout takes place.
And for that, god bless you CM Punk. You had a dream and made the effort. You started the journey you set for yourself -- one of the points of life.