CM Punk walked into UFC 203 ready to chew bubblegum and kick ass; unfortunately for him, he was still chewing by the time his fight started.
After Punk submitted to a rear naked choke from his opponent, Mickey Gall, the post-fight spin machine went to work immediately. Punk’s supporters established the narrative: he was courageous, even in defeat. I’ve seen dozens of variations on this virtual participation trophy: “I respect CM Punk for having the balls to do something most of his critics would never even think about doing!” Let’s examine what that something was:
A man in his mid-30s deciding to compete at the highest level of MMA with absolutely no prior experience. You’re goddamn right I’d never think about doing that.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan said it best in his comments following the last fight of the night:
— PWF Empire Live Jay (@PWFEmpire) September 11, 2016
If it’s necessary to talk about the courage and gusto it took for Punk to step into the octagon, it should also be important to tell the other side of that story.
During Punk’s interview on Colt Cabana’s podcast, he rifled off a litany of injuries that made it clear that pro wrestling had taken a toll on his body. Starting an MMA career would be a steep hill to climb for a 100% healthy 37-year old, much less someone with the durability of a water balloon. For every bit of testicular fortitude and courage it took for him to step up, there were greater parts of ego and hubris that pushed him forward.
Nevertheless, props to Punk for using his post-fight interview to cut a John Cena-like promo and expose the teachable moment: believe in yourself. If even one person in the entire world found inspiration in his UFC debut, then CM Punk is a winner in every way that counts… well, every way except one, but you know what I meant.