CM Punk: Was the WWE Superstar too old for MMA or just naive?

When CM Punk signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, there was a sense of optimism that he could overcome the odds and flourish. In hindsight, such hope was perhaps a little misguided. After suffering back-to-back defeats to Micky Gall and Mike Jackson, Dana White, the organization’s president, said that the WWE superstar’s UFC career was over. Following his unsuccessful run in MMA, Phillip Brooks stated that he was “too old” for MMA and left such an experiment too late. Of course, there’s some truth to that, but there was also a significant skill discrepancy. So, let’s look back on Punk’s UFC career and consider how much of a factor age had on his performances.

Unsuccessful, but Was he a Failure?

Over the years, numerous professional wrestlers have sought to broaden their horizons and cross over into the world of mixed martial arts. Aside from Brock Lesnar and Ken Shamrock, who both fought for belts in the organization, few others have experienced success in the Nevada-based promotion. When CM Punk entered the UFC, he faced a tough challenge in the form of six-foot-two Gall. At the time of their bout in September 2016, the 29-year-old was unbeaten in professional MMA, winning each of his previous two contests by first-round submission, as per his profile at Sherdog.

Unfortunately for Brooks, he became the third competitor to suffer a first-round rear-naked-choke loss to Gall. As expected, the fight itself was a one-sided contest, with the WWE superstar throwing just eight strikes, landing only two. However, there’s no shame in losing to the Green Brook-born jiu-jitsu expert. In Jackson’s fight with Gall, he threw six punches, and he’s a competitor who has long trained in various combat practices.

Granted, when Brooks and Jackson met in the cage in June 2018, Jackson showcased that CM Punk was well below the level required to be victorious in the UFC. At the time of bout, the crossover star was 39 years old, and few competitors in the promotion’s history have shone at that stage of their career. Undoubtedly the opportunity did come a little late in Brooks’ career, but there was perhaps a hint of naivety on his part in believing that he could beat experienced fighters with a few years of combat training under his belt.

Age Catches Up with the Best Competitors Eventually

At the time of writing, Randy Couture is the only fighter in the UFC’s history to win a world championship aged 39 and over. Before losing his title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91, a 45-year-old Couture stopped Gabriel Gonzaga in the third round of their highly-anticipated fight. Although Brooks never aimed to achieve title-winning success, it speaks volumes that some of the company’s best-ever fighters fell short of victories as they approached 40. Not even Anderson Silva, arguably the promotion’s all-time best fighter, sustained his success. The Spider held the middleweight title at 38. However, after losing the belt to Chris Weidman in July 2013, Silva has won just one of his next eight fights since then.

If Silva fell off at the age of 39, expectations shouldn’t have been too high for Brooks prior to his UFC debut. Ultimately, age catches up with professional sports athletes eventually, especially as young, hungry competitors fight their way to the top. Israel Adesanya is a prime example of the importance of youthfulness. After success in the 185-pound division, the Last Stylebender is now striving to become a two-weight world champion when he faces Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259. As of February 15th, and for those placing a bet online at Royal Panda, Adesanya is currently 4/10 to beat the reigning light heavyweight champion.

Brooks Shouldn’t Feel Shame

Although he failed in claiming a victory in the UFC, CM Punk didn’t embarrass himself or the world of professional wrestling. At an age when few are at their peak, he suffered a fate comparable to experienced fighters at the hands of Gall. Although the 42-year-old didn’t set the combat world alight, it’s hard to argue that such a venture didn’t come too late into his career.

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