September 9, 2016

UFC 203: For Phil "CM Punk" Brooks, No MMA Experience, No Problem! (It Is A Problem)

By Raphael Garcia

This weekend a man with zero professional or amateur mixed martial arts fights will step into the Octagon as a part of a major UFC event. On the back of years of success and fame in professional wrestling, Phil “CM Punk” Brooks will make his promotional debut, accompanied by controversy and outcry. After more than two years of speculation and commentary, the MMA world is a few days away from seeing this for exactly what it is: a stunt.

Mixed martial arts isn’t a “side hustle” that can be dabbled in on the weekend. Fighters, even on an amateur level, dedicate hours upon hours to their craft, usually spending years training to reach a suitable level to step into the cage for the first time. Brooks, due to his stardom, has circumvented that entire process. In doing so, he’s set himself up for a dangerous situation in the Octagon on Saturday.

Mickey Gall is a 24-year old professional fighter with a 2-0 record and years of training under his belt. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt has spent his time training under Dan and Jim Miller in New Jersey, honing his craft in a manner consistent with an individual who seeks to become a professional mixed martial artist. Gall also has a UFC bout on his resume; his win over Mike Jackson at UFC Fight Night 82 is yet another career point that Punk hasn’t experienced. When evaluating all aspects of this fight, it’s understandable why Gall is a betting favorite heading into this fight.

Yet there are those that will point to Brooks’ years of performing on big stages such as WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Royal Rumble as experience Gall doesn’t have. And they are right. But there are a number of other issues that Gall hasn’t dealt with, particularly the accumulation of damage that comes from a career in professional wrestling that’s nearly two decades long. As Brooks nears 38 years of age, one wonders just how much he’s been through. Brooks told the world about the back and concussion injuries he suffered towards the end of his run with WWE. When coupled with the shoulder issues he’s suffered since signing with the UFC back in 2014, the effects of years of physical toil on the former WWE champion continue to mount.

Come Sunday, the MMA fan will have a better understanding of what Brooks’ debut will mean, both for him and for the UFC as a whole. While Brooks has said that he’s in this MMA journey “for the long haul,” the question should be whether or not the UFC feels the same. It will be interesting to see if Brooks’ appearance translates into PPV buys and new fans -- remember, this situation isn’t being treated like Brock Lesnar returning while being a contracted WWE superstar. Not only does Brooks not have the legitimate athletic background of a Lesnar, he doesn’t have the promotional backing of a partnership between the UFC and WWE either.

UFC 203 is headlined by a fight between Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem for the heavyweight title. While this is the main event, the storyline of the night surrounds Phil “CM Punk” Brooks taking the walk to the cage. When you look at his story as a whole, it’s hard to get excited for a situation that will presumably end badly for the fighter and the promotion. This is one of the rare situations in which the opportunity to cash in doesn’t come close to matching the potential risks involved.


UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem takes place on September 10, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

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