The UFC has had some blockbuster signings throughout its relatively short tenure in the mainstream eye.
Every time a new talent makes their way to the world’s premiere MMA organization, it is viewed as a hardworking individual’s lifetime of dedication paying off in a big way.
That is if they’ve dedicated their whole life (or at least a large part of it) to getting to that point. But when the UFC signed professional wrestler CM Punk in late 2014, it seemed like a cross between a joke and a spectacle to many fans.
Punk, who had generated his wealth and fame in Vince McMahon’s WWE, brought a 0-0 record as a professional and amateur. Not only did he not have any prior fights, but aside from some time doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a hobbyist, he had no professional combat sports training to speak of.
Both MMA and wrestling fans alike seemed to scoff at Punk’s transition to the UFC, his quick road to the top making it seem like he was getting special treatment. For an organization that had previously touted itself on the legitimacy of competitors in terms of skill rather than star power, some feared this would be a sign of things to come.
But since then, there’s been no influx of celebrities rushing to try their luck in the cage and no list of talents who got knocked off main cards to make room for Punk. Aside from a lopsided loss to Mickey Gall, Punk hasn’t been in the cage and has instead been continuing his training under the tutelage of Duke Roufus and Roufusport MMA.
According to former middleweight and light heavyweight title contender Chael Sonnen, Punk’s story has been told incorrectly. Sonnen said: “I’ve always liked the CM Punk story, and I’ve always thought the story was mistold. It was always kind of a perception that you were getting a big-named guy coming over, who was going to suck all the air out of the room. Just because he’s a big-named guy, he doesn’t deserve it.”
Sonnen credited Punk for rising to a tough challenge, and for refusing to head back to wrestling after his debut loss.
Punk was one of WWE’s biggest stars during his time with the company, holding their world title for 434 days which remains the longest run in the modern era. His transition to MMA may not have been helped by his time in wrestling for multiple reasons – especially due to Punk’s real-life views on part-time talents taking spots from long-tenured professionals trying to gain more notoriety.
It would seem, on the surface, he’s doing the exact same thing in MMA he accused others of doing in professional wrestling. But as Sonnen mentioned, Punk isn’t taking money and spots from other people – he’s taking advantage of an opportunity and doing it in a humble way.
Punk is currently set to face Mike Jackson (0-1) at UFC 225 on June 9. The card will take place in Punk’s hometown of Chicago.