CM Punk: We Have Training Video, Folks, and It's Not Looking Great

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 06:  (R-L) Phil 'CM Punk' Brooks faces off with Mickey Gall after Gall's victory over Mike Jackson during the UFC Fight Night event at MGM Grand Garden Arena on February 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The proverbial early polls have closed, and the first data has begun to trickle in. The verdict: Tug at your collar, clench your teeth through a mouth slanted sideways and make a noise approximating "eeeeeeeeggggghhhhh."

CM Punk's got some training footage available, and it is not great.

The UFC has released a trailer for a documentary about Punk, real name Phil Brooks, and his attempt to go from fan to fighter.

The Evolution of Punk, a cleverly titled and obviously polished program, will air on Fox Sports 1 on August 15 and promises to get inside the mind, heart and most importantly, gym, of Brooks as he prepares for his UFC 203 bout against Mickey Gall.

It's a great idea because, beyond his pro wrestling stardom, Brooks' story is fascinating enough to warrant some extra attention.

He left pro wrestling when he was at the apex of his stardom, signed with the UFC despite having the same level of combat experience as the guy in the cubicle next to you, delayed his debut by a year-and-a-half because he didn't know how to fight, started to learn, got hurt, then had to learn some more, and he is now less than a month away from meeting his destiny for better or worse.

What about that isn't enthralling? Love him or hate him—and opinions seem to run the gamut—you cannot help but feel compelled to tune in on the night he finally laces 'em up for real.

But the footage in that trailer? Oh boy, the footage in that trailer.

Let's begin with one major caveat: This is a trailer. For a documentary. This is not Brooks in the gym every day or a 24/7 training video blog. This is a couple of minutes designed to prime the pump for a program designed, shot and edited to build a specific narrative arc.

What's actually going on in Brooks' preparations could be as far from what shows up on tape as you could imagine. We're not dealing in certainties here.

With that acknowledged, though, there are still some things to be gleaned from the video.

The first is the sheer savvy of Brooks in front of a camera. Years on the pro wrestling circuit have put him in front of a television camera, scripted or unscripted, for more hours than perhaps the rest of the UFC roster combined. He knows what to say, he knows how to say it, and he knows that he's going to make a person watching him feel something about him in some fashion.

The second is that the UFC and its production team have an idea of how to sell Brooks. They don't necessarily want you to forget he was a pro wrestling star, but they don't want you to focus on it.

They call him by his real name before switching to his professional ring moniker, as though his UFC career is some sort of resurrection or phoenix rising. They sell the idea that he's an everyman (which, in terms of rich guys, he sort of is) pursuing his dream the way you might if you had the chance. They work to make you feel for him with clips of coaches shouting at him or of him wheezing in a corner. It's all sold to be very inspiring, to try to draw you over to his side.

But the third, and unquestionably most important, is the modest amount of gym footage provided. It's the first of its kind to emerge since Brooks took on this challenge, with everything else amounting to hearsay from teammates and token positive thoughts from coaches.

Still, when the cage doors locks, no amount of being a good teammate or impressing a coach is going to change anything. It's going to be about throwing punches until the other guy falls down—plain and simple.

And Brooks appears to have some work to do there.

The video shows him in training on a few occasions, flailing clumsily with schoolyard physicality or operating in the clinch the way one of his beloved Chicago Blackhawks might during a hockey fight. There is a decided lack of coordination in the movements, an unevenness in the balance and transfer of force that anyone who has ever dabbled in combat sports can identify immediately in a beginner.

Because that's what Brooks is—a beginner.

He's been put in this impossible position, where he's expected to go from a few karate classes and a precarious jiu-jitsu white belt to fighting a young, hungry kid with the whole world watching. It is no different on a technical and athletic level than if that same guy in the cubicle next to you said "hey, the UFC just signed me, I'm quitting this job and going to fight Mickey Gall."

And again, it bears repeating that these are very short clips interspersed to make a short clip that's hoping to draw interest in a marginally less short television documentary. By the time Punk evolves and takes to the cage, he might be as good as any 0-0 fighter to ever take a professional fight.

Based on the first look at him in action, though, for however modest a look it is, there is room for some hushed concern over what may be coming his way.


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