‘CM Punk’ – real name, Phil Brooks – the ex-Internet Wrestling Community darling and self-proclaimed voice of the voiceless is finally stepping into the Octagon nearly two years after announcing his defection from the WWE to the UFC in what can lay claim to being the ugliest divorce ever.
Having built a hall-of-fame career in the WWE, he walked out on the company in spectacular and controversial circumstances after becoming disenfranchised by the direction management had him on. At the top of his profession and arguably the biggest draw in the company, his leaving caused a stir – it had the WWE scrambling, it had fans up in arms and it had the UFC sensing an opportunity.
As the struggle between Punk and the WWE continued, he caught other’s in the cross-fire. His fiance, fellow WWE wrestler – April Mendez, known as AJ Lee – another top commodity in the company, walked out four months later. Fed up, the WWE served termination papers to Punk on his wedding day. A move which sparked a public and ugly divorce which would have Hollywood jealous. Still locked in a bitter legal dispute, something out of the blue happened – the UFC came knocking.
Nearly a year from his walking out on the WWE, Punk announced that he had signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC. A decision which drew the ire of many UFC fighters, taking aim at the fact that an ‘inexperienced’ ‘pretend fighter’ can walk into the biggest company and take the place of others who have been doing this for years.
Nate Diaz has been one of his biggest detractors – see for yourself in this clip below (Warning: Contains very profane language).
Heavy-Weight star Alistair Overeem has also had some choice words for Brooks.
What ever side of the debate you sit on, it’s simple – he’s in the UFC and he’s fighting and now, as we await his debut for the third time. The question now turns back to a simple one – ‘What does signing CM Punk make the UFC?’
It makes the UFC more like the WWE. For years Dana White has looked at the business model of WWE chairman Vince McMahon and molded it to fit the UFC. It’s this very action which helped Dana White sell the UFC for $US4 billion earlier this year. However, it’s also the thing that is holding the UFC back.
They make money and notoriety on the violence of the sport, WWE makes it on the ‘art’ of the performance, whether that is in the ring or in the characters. By bringing in one the WWE’s biggest characters, they’ve continued that relationship, whether Punk and the WWE are on good terms or not, he will always be the ‘WWE Guy.’ Punk can win as many bouts as he wants, but he won’t ever shake that tag, he won’t ever be able to do what Brock Lesnar did.
Where Lesnar made a similar transition, he had a collegiate wrestling background to build from, as well as being a 300 pound genetic monster with a genuine mean streak. He was bred to hurt people. As a 170 pound new-comer, who’s only experience in MMA being occasional Jiu-jitsu training sessions with Renner Gracie during his time in the WWE – this is eerily similar to the WWE during their phase of recruiting former football players and bodybuilders and had them compete with veteran’s of the industry.
It boils down to a simple equation – WWE is equal parts performance art and durability – UFC is equal parts athleticism and durability. The similarities between the two are evident, but the key difference is the performance art; WWE live and die by it, the UFC are aided by it.
Signing CM Punk blurs that equation, and if they want to be the UFC, that equation needs to be clearer.