One Non-Obvious Reason CM Punk will do well in UFC

Yes, it involves steel chairs.

As a fan of both WWE and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) & UFC (I know, inconceivable right?) — and someone who dabbled in both in the late-90's and early 2000's — I was super-excited to see CM Punk (we call him Phil Brooks now) standing next to Joe Rogan at UFC181.

And next to Rogan is where I thought he was going to stay — or next to someone — as the newest member of the UFC broadcast and hype team.

I never expected CM Punk to announce that he was actually going to fight in UFC.

But he did. And he will.

What’s Best for Business

And while the pundits and even “good ol’ JR” Jim Ross have weighed-in on whether he’ll do well as a fighter or if that even matters, and once again ignited the “is UFC sport or entertainment?” debate, what no one should be arguing against (but keep it up, obviously, because that’s what will make this a true statement) is that this is GREAT for business.

That this move is great for business — for the UFC, for Punk personally, and I’d argue for the WWE, too — is a no-brainer. This was never more obvious than the fact that the CM Punk news overshadowed pretty much everything else at UFC 181. UFC — and all professional sports — are Sports Entertainment, whether you want to admit that or not.

Less Common Reasons CM Punk Will Do Well

That all said, I think Punk has the potential to do well in the UFC as a fighter for these less common reasons:

  • Drawing Power — His ability to make money means even the most anti-Pro-Wrestling trainers will engage with him.
  • No Real Downside — There’s not a ton of pressure on him, really; if he wins, awesome. If he loses, no biggie.
  • Ability to focus on MMA — Many pro-wrestlers did MMA part-time (especially in Japan) and that doesn’t work. The pro-wrestlers who were able to focus on MMA full-time (Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, and Kazushi Sakuraba for instance) did quite well in MMA.
  • Work Ethic — CM Punk wrestled sick, hurt, tired, stressed 200+ days per year… putting the same amount of effort into something like MMA, while mentally and physically healthy, will produce amazing results.
  • Straight-Edge Lifestyle — Clean living goes a long way toward faster recovery; and there’s no chance of him getting popped for PEDs… unless his coach gives them to him without his knowing like so many other athletes

But none of that matters if he can’t get past that first punch in that first fight. Which brings me to…

The Most Non-Obvious Reason CM Punk Will do Well in MMA

I think CM Punk will do well not just in UFC, but in his first real Pro MMA fight, because of:

His Ability to Fight on Instinct

For context, simply look to the famous Mike Tyson quote:

Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth

It’s true… there’s always that big question everyone asks about a brand new fighter; what will he do when he gets hit for real that first time?

Assuming he doesn’t get knocked out cold from that first punch — few people actually do — then this question is super important. How does CM Punk react to getting hit for the first time by someone with bad intentions?

Getting Past the First Real Punch

The questions around this are even more interesting when you’re talking about a phony pretend fighter who got punched for fake 300 nights a year for over a decade.

Let’s face it, Punk has taken thousands of fake false faux punches to the face — many piledrivers to the face — but can he take a real punch? And when he does, will he be able to keep going?

As much as I’m not a fan of the delivery of many of those questions, the basis for the question is actually legitimate; not just of CM Punk, but any brand new fighter.

But most people don’t understand how Professional Wrestling actually works or how wrestlers operate. If you did, you’d know what will happen when CM Punk get’s punched in the face for real the first time:

He’ll keep going!

Fighting on Instinct

CM Punk will keep going just like he kept going in a match after multiple chair shots to the head (nothing fake about metal on skull; which is why WWE banned chair shots to the head).

Or after multiple crazy falls (bumps in wrestling lingo) in the ring or outside of it.

He’ll keep going just like he did after taking multiple regular bumps in a normal match; that canvas-covered-wood “mat” (a wrestling ring is not a trampoline) doesn’t give as much as it appears to, and yet wrestlers… Just. Keep. Going.

If you think Pro-Wrestling is 100% legitimate competition, well…it’s too late… I may have spoiled some of that for you. Sorry.

But if you think Pro-Wrestling matches are entirely scripted, stop reading right there… I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Spoiler! Wrestling Isn’t as Scripted as you Think

The reality is, Pro-Wrestling matches are NOT completely scripted.

Instead, matches are laid-out ahead of time with planned beginning, some special things during the match (spots, comebacks, etc.), and the finish. Then the work builds around that; very much like a game plan.

So as Mr. Tyson said, when most people get hit, the game plan goes out the window. But if you do that in Pro-Wrestling, you’re done.

You don’t become a top WWE superstar by NOT being able to work on instinct after taking head trauma. Punk’s got this.

The Ryback Incident was about Trust

On a side note, since Punk’s initial interview on Colt Cabana’s podcast, there’s been a lot of people saying “but Punk complained that Ryback hurt him intentionally… and now he’s getting into MMA where guys will try to hurt him intentionally!”

Not sure I actually need to point this out, but I will; Pro-Wrestling is all about cooperation and trust. Guys that wouldn’t trust someone to hold a $20 bill for them — or be alone with their girlfriend — will put their life in the other guy’s hands in the ring.

So when someone intentionally takes advantage of that trust — goes into business for themselves, as they say — it’s unexpected and very dangerous.

The guy “shooting” (the opposite of “working”) on the other guy will probably get the better of that exchange because it was essentially a sucker punch. Look up famous Pro-Wrestling “shoot” incidents on Youtube and they are all one-sided sucker punches or kicks perpetrated by people who didn’t really want to “fight” but, rather, simply wanted to attack someone.

You’re not a tough guy if you punch someone who — based on mutual agreement — assumes you are looking out for the best interests. So whether the Ryback story was true or not, the sentiment is “I trusted him and he betrayed that trust.”

To put it into martial arts terms, if you were sparring with a training partner and you both agreed on 50% intensity and no head shots for this training session… and while you’re sparring, your training partner decided to go 100% and punch you square in the nose.

Or, because you’re rolling and know that you can tap out at any point you don’t fight off submission attempts that hard, and then your training partner decides not to respect your tap and breaks your shoulder. That’s what Punk was talking about in the Ryback case.

But when it comes to MMA, the only trust going into a fight — honestly — is that the referee is there to enforce the rules. That’s it. Punk knows this because he’s a student of the game and also… has some level of common sense.

No one goes into a legitimate MMA fight assuming that their opponent is going to go easy on them or otherwise protect them. That’s ridiculous.

So the “Ryback hurt CM Punk” narrative does not translate to MMA because MMA fights are legitimate. It may translate to his training — which he’s made several comments about — but in the Octagon, on fight night, it’s a fight. Period.

Instinct Only Goes So Far, Though

So my view is that CM Punk is smart, understands the game, has many things going for him — in the face of his age and the toll wrestling has taken on his body — but more than anything, CM Punk has the in-built foundation required to follow a game plan on instinct — and he’s proven his ability to work under these conditions.

Of course, he’ll have to learn the game plan for MMA, do it enough that it’s built into his muscle memory, etc. Will he have the instincts of someone dedicated to Jiu-jitsu for the past 25 years? Will he have Ronda Rousey’s magical Judo instincts? Nope. Will he have the instincts of a pure MMA fighter, who’s trained their entire career solely in MMA? No, clearly.

But skills and technique can be taught, muscle memory can be defined… but the ability to work on instinct isn’t something everyone has. CM Punk has that.

But that just gets him past the first punch. We’ll see what happens after that.

Follow me on Twitter @lincolnmurphy where I mostly talk about Growth Hacking and Customer Success and not MMA, UFC, or WWE.

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