Haters and Doubt Are Fueling the CM Punk UFC Circus as WWE Fans Patiently Wait

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterMay 27, 2018

CM Punk stands in the octagon after being defeated by Mickey Gall during a welterweight bout at UFC 203 on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Cleveland.  (AP Photo/David Dermer)
David Dermer/Associated Press

CM Punk doesn't have to be in the Octagon or even in training to take one on the chin.

The shots come at him on a regular basis. UFC fighters mock him. Experts dismiss his chances. Fans envision embarrassing beatdowns.

It's a continuous cycle, a guarantee that one won't have to wait long between Punk talk.

The latest jab at the former WWE star came from the man who interviewed him after his UFC debut. On his podcast, UFC announcer Joe Rogan trashed the idea of Punk's fight being on the main card of UFC 225 (h/t MMA NYTT).

"It shouldn't even be on the Tuesday Night Contender show," Rogan said. "It should be on some amateur event somewhere. That's really what they are. They're guys learning how to compete."

That's nothing new for Punk. Since he decided to enter the MMA world in late 2014, he's been the subject of harsh (and often true) criticism. He is a lightning rod, an outsider, a star built elsewhere. Ample press, be it bad or good, is all part of the package.

It assures that the buzz around Punk grows, that he becomes a marquee name despite having tomato-can talent. The process has picked up now that Punk is poised to return to the Octagon. The 0-1 upstart is set to face Mike "The Truth" Jackson at UFC 225 on June 9.

Punk's detractors are ever-present, just as they were ahead of his disastrous debut.

Former UFC heavyweight Don Frye told Submission Radio before Punk's first fight that the WWE transplant had no business in the Octagon (h/t Karim Zidan of Bloody Elbow).

"Somebody just can't sit there watching the show on the couch eating Fritos and say, 'Hey I think I can do this,'" Frye said. "Nah, you're an idiot. You're going to get hurt, and you deserve to get hurt for thinking that way."

Jason David Frank, a martial artist who once played the Green Ranger on Power Rangers, has been challenging and trash-talking Punk for years.

As Punk's second try at MMA under the bright lights draws near, doubt abounds once more. 

OddsShark has Punk as the underdog at +175 (wager $100 to win $175). Twitter is awash with those sure he will fail again. Not surprisingly, voters had little confidence in Punk in a poll for MMA Junkie Radio:

Regardless of how he fares when the fists begin to fly against Jackson, the Chicago native has already been successful in one aspect of the fight game: creating interest and stirring up buzz.

The casual UFC fan, or the WWE fan curious about the goings on in the Octagon, doesn't know who Andrei Arlovski or Tai Tuivasa is. They do, however, know of Punk. And some are sure to tune in, out of curiosity, to root for one of their favorite pro wrestlers or watch to see him fail in front of the world again.

CM Punk after his loss to Mickey Gall.
CM Punk after his loss to Mickey Gall.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

That's why Punk is getting a main-card spot even if, as Rogan pointed out, he doesn't deserve it from a skill standpoint.

UFC understands what Punk is. He's a circus attraction. He's a gimmick. 

One has to wonder how long it will all last, though. The 39-year-old doesn't have years ahead of him in his new career. If Jackson runs over him the way Mickey Gall did, there is little chance of Punk's UFC run turning into a trilogy.

Punk's pro wrestling fanbase has to be hoping for a quick end to this chapter.

Success in his new endeavor lessens the chances of a return to the ring. Failure could inspire him to head back to what he does best. The All In independent event on Sept. 1 looms as a potential welcome-back point for The Straight Edge Savior.

The hunger to see Punk wrestle again is strong among many. Audiences still chant his name some four years after his WWE exit. Every time WWE heads back to Chicago, there is always a portion of the audience daring to dream of a surprise Punk re-emergence in his hometown.

Those fans hold out hope that the Punk hoopla moves homes, that the conversation shifts from why Punk will fail in the cage to why he will flourish upon his return to the squared circle.

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