Just a couple of weeks out from “breaking the Internet” with his podcast on Colt Cabana’s The Art of Wrestling, CM Punk found another way to keep his name in the news: signing with the UFC.
And oh my did that get people talking.
Am I surprised that CM Punk has decided to pursue mixed martial arts? Not really. Am I surprised that UFC took him on a 0-0 record? Not really either.
So what are the good, the bad, and the ugly of CM Punk in the UFC?
The UFC is a business and they’re there to make money. Dana White, just like Vince McMahon, is a promoter. And a very good one too. The two might do things a little different but at the end of the day the goal is the same – making money. And lots of it.
CM Punk is a big name in the sports entertainment world. Fans love him. You can also find just as many fans who hate him for walking out of the WWE the day after the Royal Rumble. Like he said many times, he doesn’t owe the fans anything. True. If let’s say Beyonce decides she doesn’t want to sing anymore then she won’t sing anymore. End of story. Yes, he had a contract, he got fired, and turned the tables on WWE and ended up leaving with more money. That says a lot when it comes to how contracts are drawn up and if you have a good attorney then you will find a way out of it. That “independent contractor” part of the contract doesn’t help WWE and this case has probably opened a major loophole for the company when it comes to imposing no-compete clauses.
But in any case, Dana White saw money in CM Punk. His first fight, whenever that might be, will draw money. Hundreds of thousands of viewers will tune in to see if Punk can cut it in the Octagon. Pro wrestling haters will buy the PPV to see him getting his ass handed to him. Wrestling fans will buy it to support Punk. Win win situation for the UFC.
Punk already said that his first fight will be on pay-per-view. And why wouldn’t it be? White would be crazy to give it out for free on television or Fight Pass. This is not like in professional wrestling where the company tries to get a bigger rating for a Raw or a Smackdown with something special. The UFC is mainly a pay-per-view business and that’s where they make their money.
If CM Punk wins the first fight, then more people will buy the next one hoping to see someone knock him the F out. It’s the same thing with Brock Lesnar. Lesnar was the highest grossing PPV fighter for the UFC. Why? For the same reason. MMA fans hate it when pro wrestlers storm their sport. Lesnar came in like a bullet train, thrown into an alligator pit that was the heavyweight division, made a rookie mistake in the first UFC fight, and instantly created one of the hottest feuds ever in the UFC with Frank Mir.
Lesnar quickly silenced his critics, although then faded away in the final two fights when he lost the title and when he got stopped by Alistair Overeem. Injured or not, pro wrestling haters loved it just as much as wrestling fans loved it when he defeated MMA legend Randy Couture for the title and then damn near killed Frank Mir.
The UFC rarely – if ever – hands out a contract to someone who has a 0-0 MMA record. Brock Lesnar went to fight Min-Soo Kim at a Dynamite!! USA show in June 2007 in Los Angeles before he got his UFC deal.
A lot of mixed martial artists are pissed that Punk was basically handed this contract. There are many who have been busting their ass for years hoping to get on the roster but still never made it in the UFC. I get their point, it must be frustrating. But with all due respect, they’re not an instant draw. You put CM Punk vs Unknown Fighter X and he’ll draw money for the company.
Giving Punk a multi-fight deal on a 0-0 record is a risk. We don’t know how many fights are in that deal as it was not revealed, nor we know how much money the UFC shelled out to get Punk on its roster. The former WWE champion is not an idiot. He’s a businessman too. He knows how much he’s worth and will not settle for anything less.
Will UFC lose money from this deal? Hard to say, depending how much he can draw on pay-per-view and how much he can last. The company will probably make a lot of money from merchandise and will try and squeeze every little cent from this deal.
And if you’re a mixed martial artist, you don’t want to be THAT guy who got beat by a professional wrestler. Dana White already said he will not throw Punk to the wolves like he did with Lesnar. That already shows they will protect him and will line him up with someone with a similar record or someone new with a relatively stupid record.
Either way this ends, the UFC will not come out like a loser in this one. They will be the company who gave a guy his chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a mixed martial artist.
But if you’re CM Punk and you sucked in the cage, well, that’s a different story.
CM Punk is a brand. The man behind it, Phil Brooks, is proud of that brand as he should be. He had big success in WWE when the higher-ups were against him. He went on to become one of the best in the world, no pun intended, and held the title for a whopping 434 days.
An epic failure inside the Octagon will be a big hit to CM Punk the brand, and an even bigger hit to Phil Brooks’ ego. I respect the man for trying this out, you need a good set of balls to go in a cage and fight, but everyone is expecting a lot now and the chances of a fail at the moment outweigh those of a success.
You look at Brock Lesnar and his time in MMA. Yes, he’s 5-3 overall and 4-3 in the UFC. But he won the UFC Heavyweight title in his first shot and despite his record, he’s been a big success. He went back to WWE and had the best contract possibly ever in the company. Why? Because he can draw money. Can CM Punk do the same? Time will tell.
CM Punk’s journey in UFC will be an interesting one to follow. I’m a fan of both CM Punk and the UFC so I will closely watch just like I followed Lesnar’s journey. It’s been his dream to go there and if he wants to do MMA, who are we to judge him?
If you don’t like him, don’t buy the show. Simple as that. I hope he goes and makes a ton of money for himself and the UFC.
Will he be the best in the world in the Octagon too? Too early to say. Like I said, the odds are not in favor, but then again, this world is full of surprises. If the rumors are true and Lesnar will join the UFC in 2015 again, MMA fans will hate it even more having two “fake” professional wrestlers in the Octagon.
Personally, I love it, and I can’t wait to see it all unfold. And I will mark out if he ever wins a fight with the Anaconda Vise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colin Vassallo is the Editor of Wrestling-Online.com. You can follow him on Twitter @wrestlingonline or his personal one @ColinVassallo.