Everyone also knows that the debut? Well, it didn’t go too well for Punk. As in, a first round submission, in a match where he really didn’t muster any offense, and ultimately did not look like he belonged in the Octagon.
That was a sentiment echoed by Dana White, who post-show basically said that he wasn’t sure if Punk’s next match should be with UFC.
So, should he stay or should he go?
It’s a valid question. Yes, people will say that Lesnar also lost his UFC debut, but there is a distinct difference or two in play. Lesnar did have an amateur wrestling background, and just needed to knock rust off. He was a physical beast, and a lot younger when making the transition. Punk did not share the collegiate experience, is working in a lower weight class and has a lot more miles on his body now, then when Lesnar switched. So, it’s an apples to oranges comparison.
It’s hard to grade the man on one bout, no matter how lopsided the loss was. It can be said that yes, he didn’t show much in the loss, which is true. But was it one mistake that a more experienced fighter capitalized on and something he couldn’t recover from? Or was it just being completely out of his element?
For me, I am not grading just on the debut, but on the totality of his UFC career. Specifically, looking at how long it’s been since the big signing was announced, till his debut. It was a long time, two years almost. Some of that was just spent getting him trained up to survive in the Octagon, but he lost a lot of time too, to injuries from training. That, to me, was concerning. Since the training was off limits to prying eyes, we don’t really know if he was just training really hard and pushed himself too much on several occasions, or what. It could be that he just happened to get a bunch of bad luck in training. It could also be that he had already absorbed so much in his career that his body was more prone to injuries than anyone expected. But, when I see how things went in training, coupled with his debut? I do agree with White’s sentiment-perhaps, if Punk is determined to make it as an MMA fighter, then his next fight need not happen for UFC.
Now, things do get interesting, because afterwards, Punk sure sounded like someone who wanted to get up and get back at it. He even reiterated that his UFC contract was for multiple fights. But will UFC choose to honor it? If not, where could he go?
Could they make him really prove himself, like going through a season of TUF? I think that probably wouldn’t help him, but if they want to cash in on any possible ratings boost, I could see it as possible (though, I’d think they’d have done this sooner).
Could they cut him loose and see him land with a lesser MMA promotion? Maybe, but how long till he’s ready again? And how long till he’s competent and comfortable in the cage? What happens if he drops to a lower promotion and still gets clobbered?
Would he even consider the unthinkable? Could he return to WWE? I have to think he’d never say no, even though the split was not a happy one. But, Punk was a big fish in WWE, one of the top draws. He’s not even close to that in UFC now, and may never get there. If CM Punk were to pick up the phone now and talk to Hunter? I have to think something would get worked out. It would be hard not to be excited about a possible Punk/Styles match, for example. And if Punk comes back, would his wife come back too? She’d be an interesting addition to an entirely revamped women’s division.
In the end, I commend Punk for knowing what he wanted and sacrificing a great deal to achieve it. I think now he needs to take time to reflect and evaluate. If he is determined to fight in UFC again, then I am sure that’s what he’s going to try and do. If that’s not the direction he chooses, then I am sure he will have options. Including making his WWE return.