What CM Punk’s UFC Loss Really Means

cm-punk-2Former WWE champion and pro wrestler CM Punk made his long awaited MMA debut on September 10, 2016 as part of UFC 203. The event, emanating from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, marked the culmination of a two year journey that began with Punk’s abrupt departure from WWE in January 2014 following his disappointment with that year’s Royal Rumble and the scheduling of his persona leading into Wrestlemania 30. Punk would go into a period of media silence before a tell-all interview with wrestling friend Colt Cabana where he shared his myriad of reasons for leaving the sport of pro wrestling and his plans to enter the UFC.

Amid a number of delays and challenges, Punk finally entered the Octagon to take on fellow competitor Mickey Gall. Coming into the battle, Gall was 2-0-0 in UFC competition but all eyes were clearly focused on the enigmatic Punk. Leading into the fight, Punk wouldn’t shake Gall’s hand during the weigh-in, saying “I’m not here to shake anybody’s hand. I’m here to punch people in the face”. In essence, he fully lived up to the persona of Punk that fans knew from his days inside the wrestling ring.

Well, all questions were answered, somewhat, as Punk was dominated from the opening bell by Gall before submitting to a rear naked choke in 2:14 of the first round.

And with this result, and the decisive victory by Gall, we begin to ask, What does Punk’s loss really mean? Is it yet another negative reflection on the sport of pro wresting? Can wrestling not stand up to the rigors of MMA?

Let’s offer a perspective. For many years, the sport (and yes, it IS a sport) of pro wrestling has seemingly always been forced to measure its worth and value against other sports deemed “legitimate” by the mainstream media. Dating back to the 70’s and 80’s when boxers were pitted against wrestlers, it seems as though there’s been a battle to discredit the entire sport based on the performance of one man.

So, does CM Punk’s domination mean that wrestling is not as legitimate as MMA? Well, clearly the answer is NO! Let’s remember that just two months ago, the MMA world buzzed over the return of Brock Lesnar who returned to the Octagon after a four year absence. Lesnar’s July return saw him defeat Mark Hunt by unanimous decision at UFC 200. Let’s not forget that Lesnar left wrestling to pursue a failed football career before finding a modicum of success in the UFC, only to return to wrestling and find great success in both wrestling and MMA.

Let’s also add to this conversation, arguably the most DOMINANT athlete who operates in both pro wrestling and MMA. This is the TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Lashley. Lashley, who has competed in WWE, winning the ECW World Championship before heading to the world of TNA, seems to get far less attention in this conversation. The Colorado native is 14-2 competing in the Bellator promotion, all while still holding the TNA World Championship. So wrestlers CAN compete and be successful outside of wrestling.

So what DOES Punk’s loss really mean? Here are a couple of ways to interpret this. For one, Punk hasn’t exactly been endearing to the sport of pro wrestling or its fans over the years. So, it’s safe to say that he didn’t even approach this match as a “pro wrestler entering the octagon”. To his credit, he took two years to train for this new career endeavor. He clearly took this match and journey seriously. In the same breath, Punk was still Punk. He brought his trademark “Best In The World” bravado into this encounter. His attitude leading up to the match certainly reflected this.

His loss was just that. A loss! Wrestling didn’t lose to mixed martial arts. Instead, CM Punk, the man, lost to the better man for this night, Mickey Gall. Gall was more prepared, had greater hunger, and wanted the win more. Gall had been overlooked and nearly forgotten about leading up to this fight. Many eyes were on this fight to see what Punk would do and gave little thought to his UNDEFEATED opponent! To some, 2-0 means little. However, that’s two more fights and two more victories, than Punk had under his belt.

Ironically, Punk’s post match interviews showcased a side of him that was not publicly visible for years in his wrestling career. Punk turned inspirational. Punk was emotional. The facade of the abrasive, tough, and uncaring leader of the Straight Edge Society was traded in for visible disappointment.

There are many that will applaud Punk for merely having the courage to accept the fight, pursue his dream, and step up to the challenge no matter the outcome. That is indeed an accomplishment. Yet Punk’s loss is more of a reflection of what can happen when a goal is pursued without the presence of humility.

Truth be told, we all are blessed with certain gifts and traits that make us unique. While it is our responsibility to perfect our craft and maximize these gifts to their fullest potential, the intangible that is often missing and is yet amazingly necessary is that of humility. There are two adages and popular Scriptures that shed some light on this situation.

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 NLT)
“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2 NLT)

Pride will always be the Achilles’ heel to even the most gifted and talented of athletes. Note the change of disposition for Punk from before the fight to his post-fight interview. It’s the tale of two cities and the difference between over-confidence and humility.

We certainly do wish Punk well in his budding UFC career and are confident he will do what’s necessary to be successful in his next battle. But this CM Punk loss is a reminder to us all of the power of pride and the danger of underestimating your opponent while overstating your abilities in a foreign situation.

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