With the Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz saga coming to a potential end, we close the books on UFC 202 and look forward to the next chapter that is UFC 203 and the debut of former WWE superstar CM Punk.
It’s been almost two years since Punk walked out on the WWE prior to a live Monday Night Raw broadcast – the day after the 2014 Royal Rumble – and signed a contract for the world’s leading Mixed Martial Arts organisation at UFC 181.
From the squared circle to the octagon it has been a two-year odyssey for the professional wrestler turned MMA fighter as he makes a big transition. With no prior experience, the former WWE champion has made several sacrifices to pursue a career in the UFC. However, is anyone giving the former WWE champion a serious chance in his debut run?
He moved from his home in Chicago with his wife April Brooks – also a former WWE star known as AJ Lee – to train with former Mauy Thai and kickboxing champions Duke and Rick Roufus in Milwaukee. From there he embarked upon a long and difficult weight cut from 200lbs to 180, made difficult with a lingering back injury that followed him throughout his wrestling career. But the time is now to tune in and witness the CM Punk experiment.
Without a competitive martial art background and a lack of natural skill, you can’t question CM Punk’s determination and heart. Walking away from a lucrative multi million-dollar contract in the WWE to scratch the itch that’s always bothered him is big. But despite earning respect from his fellow peers, including the outspoken Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping, it’s the MMA fans that are harder to win over.
Coming into this bout with a 0-0 record he challenges a young prospect in Mickey Gall – who rose to the MMA community’s attention by winning a fight in the regional circuit that was featured on Dana White’s reality show Looking for a Fight. Gall, who is entering this fight with a 2-0 record and owns a 45-second 1st round rear naked choke win in his first UFC bout, is coming in as the heavy favourite.
Leaked footage and the Evolution of Punk television series have shown Punk’s training has been less than ideal. But with training partners like the Pettis brothers and current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley on a daily basis, who knows how much he’s evolved since January 2015?
This is an unpredictable sport, which begs the question – are we giving the Second City Saint a realistic shot or are we all tuning in for a failed experiment that could spell the end of CM Punk’s MMA career?