Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fighting for the Right to Fight

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – HP Lovecraft

As a slew of fights take place tonight in Cleveland at UFC 203, a bigger fight is taking place: CM Punk versus the world.

Many have criticized Punk (real name Philip Brooks) before he’s even stepped foot in the cage. A lot of it has to do with his lack of experience. But Punk isn’t lacking in fights. His record may be 0-0, but he’s had many opponents since his untimely exit from WWE over two years ago:

-MMA fighters
-MMA fans
-MMA purists.
-Wrestling fans/pundits.
-Multiple injuries, the biggest being one that required back surgery

HP Lovecraft’s quote speaks volumes, and encapsulates the disdain some have for what can be seen as an experiment of sorts. We fear what we do not know. If the oldest and strongest emotion is fear, then jealousy can’t be far behind.

Fighters could be jealous he’s “cutting the line” and getting a shot they think he doesn’t deserve. 

They could also be jealous he’s training at a premiere fighting camp. They could be jealous he’s lined up for an incredible pay day.

Wrestlers may be jealous Punk told a billionaire to essentially kick rocks.

And whether some people in general may like to admit it or not, they’re jealous of Punk’s freedom to blaze his own path in life.

Yet this opportunity is not unearned. The “voice of the voiceless” sacrificed his life to make his wrestling dreams come true. With that came his immense popularity, success and wealth. Those things have afforded him a chance to delve into various projects such as writing comics, take time off to be with family, and a chance to train with elite MMA coaches and fighters.

But it’s not likely that any of the jealousy and contempt bothers Punk. He’s always walked to the beat of his own drum (as evidenced by his leaving WWE at the height of his wrestling popularity), and isn’t the type to conform to anyone else’s expectations of what should or shouldn’t be possible. 

Remind you of anyone?

Brock Lesnar did the same in 2004 following Wrestlemania 20 to chase his dream of being an NFL player. He was 27 years old. While the NFL didn’t work out, Lesnar would enter the MMA world.   

Like Brock Lesnar in 2008, Punk’s mere debut will light the MMA world on fire for at least one night.

Unlike 2008 Lesnar, Punk has no amateur wrestling background or MMA experience prior to his first UFC fight.

Unlike 2008 Lesnar, Punk isn’t built like The Hulk.

Unlike 2008 Lesnar, Punk doesn’t have jaw-dropping athleticism. 

Unlike 2008 Lesnar, Punk had to cut around thirty pounds to make weight.

And what may be the most notable difference, unlike 2008 Lesnar- Punk isn’t 31. He’s 37. He’s put a lot of miles on his body, literally and figuratively by traveling the independent wrestling scene and for WWE. His “bump card” (a term used to describe the amount of punishment wrestlers take during the course of their career) has plenty of punches on it. But after dietary changes and training with Duke Roufus, Punk has put himself in the best possible position to prove his naysayers wrong.

Punk said one advantage he has is that by having no experience, there’s no bad habits Roufus had to correct. But with that comes the fact Punk lacks the experience. Gall may be a young fighter with only three professional fights, but before that comes amateur fights as well and the simple fact he has devoted his life to MMA longer than Punk has. This is no knock on the former WWE star but only the circumstances he and Gall find themselves in.

One interesting part about UFC’s recent mini documentary on Punk’s journey is Gall’s training camp casually joking about how to prepare for the Chicago made fighter. In a scene, they show how to defend against a choke-slam and a sharpshooter.

Was this to build fake tension, or is Gall really thinking Punk and the entire lead-up to this is a joke? For a fighter who begged repeatedly to face Punk, he can’t afford to take any part of it lightly. If you want to be a realist, Gall should win tonight’s bout convincingly. Punk’s desire is certainly there, but can that carry over into the fight itself?

A possibility for fans of Brooks is that he could legitimately be unconscious or be submitted by Gall. For a former wrestler who’s finishing move was called the “GTS” (Go to Sleep), that would be quite a jarring visual. But win or lose, tonight’s fight is about a man who’s taking a chance and betting on himself, something that some of us might never do. 

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

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