The date was January 27, 2014. That was the last time that Phil ‘CM Punk’ Brooks competed in a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) ring when he took part in the 30-man battle royal.
The tension between CM Punk and the WWE management had been building up for a long time and he finally decided to quit the company at the same arena where he competed in his first ever WWE fight in March 2007.
But, CM Punk’s connection with the arena continues as 959 days after that incident, he will be competing in the very same building — Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena — when he faces Mickey Gall in his first ever Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight as part of the main fight card of UFC 203.
CM Punk signed with the UFC way back in December 2014 and has faced a lot of criticism from that very moment. Punk does not have any background in wrestling or mixed martial arts and, as a result, most of the experts and fellow fighters were quick to tag him as a ‘show’ fighter who will be humiliated on debut.Alistair Overeem, veteran UFC heavyweight fighter who will be headlining UFC 203 with Stipe Miocic, was quick to dismiss CM Punk’s chances.
“To me he’s making a mistake. He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into,” said Overeem during the UFC 203 press conference.
UFC heavyweight fighter Ben Rothwell even went on to predict a total embarrassment for Punk as he said: “I [think] Mickey Gall will go out and will just absolutely annihilate him. I mean, bad. Like, makes us almost start laughing.”
However, that did not stop the 37-year-old CM Punk from training hard in kickboxing and Brazilian ju-jitsu for his upcoming fight. He is ready to make good use of his opportunity on the world’s largest mixed martial arts stage when he enters the octagon at UFC 203. However, a young welterweight fighter stands between CM Punk and a perfect start to his UFC career.
The 24-year old Gall, from New Jersey, is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has won both of his MMA professional fights in under two rounds. The youngster impressed UFC owner Dana White while fighting at Dead Serious MMA promotion. After joining UFC, Gall made a perfect debut against Mike Jackson, winning in the first round via a rear-naked submission.
The only disadvantage that Gall will have going into the fight is the crowd pressure that generally come with these big occasions and that can prove to be a bit too much for the promising young talent.
The fight also holds great significance with respect to the future of both the fighters as the result can determine how their careers will progress in the UFC. If Punk loses, this can be the beginning of the end of his MMA dream as it will be really hard for White to find a high-profile opponent for him. Most of the experts have already written him off as a ‘show fighter’ and considering his age and lack of training, a loss can be fatal to his career
. On the other hand, a defeat for Gall will also spell doom for the youngster as a loss against an UFC novice like CM Punk will seriously hurt his reputation and that can prove to a major blow to his dreams of becoming a main-card competitor.
Thus, a lot will be on the line when the two fighters face each other at UFC 203 and for CM Punk, it will surely be déjà vu to have his hand raised in the same building where he ended his professional wrestling career two years ago.