Phil “CM Punk” Brooks’ MMA career definitely didn’t get off to the best start. After training with Roufusport for over two years, the former WWE superstar could barely make it through the opening minutes of his debut against Mickey Gall at UFC 203. For Punk, there’s no place like home.
Punk used his leverage as a WWE star to jump right into the shark-infested waters of the UFC’s ranks. It clearly didn’t work out well. It’s to be expected for someone like Punk, who had no prior combat-sports experience. Despite the poor debut at UFC 203, it’s not all a lost cause for Punk.
For starters, he’s still a recognizable name and a draw with the fan base. The numbers don’t lie. UFC 203 was a resounding success considering the pay-per-view lineup, no small thanks to the former WWE superstar.
UFC 203 will likely have the most PPV buys by a card w/o McGregor, Rousey or Lesnar since UFC 183. Maybe since UFC 182.
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) September 11, 2016
Yes, his drawing power took a sizable hit after the way he performed. The UFC likely can’t afford to put Punk on pay-per-view again, but that leaves the option of bolstering the ratings for a Fox or Fox Sports 1 card. With the UFC running events nearly every weekend, it surely wouldn’t hurt to have a draw like Punk appear on a card.
This, of course, is assuming that Punk will get another crack inside the Octagon. Even if the UFC is entertaining the option, perhaps it would be best for Punk to look closer to home for his next MMA appearance. If he’s serious about wanting to make a second career in MMA, it should be done the slow and steady route.
Punk has a few options back home.
The XFO is among the biggest MMA promotions in the Midwest. The organization has been home to MMA veterans such as Pat Curran, Daniel Straus, Clay Guida and Felice Herrig. The promotion routinely runs events at the University of Illinois – Chicago campus, a large arena for a regional promotion. The company also has the advantage of being affiliated with UFC Fight Pass. This means that although Punk wouldn’t be competing in the Octagon, the UFC could still promote his appearance on its digital network. It’s a win-win situation for the UFC, which can still utilize Punk’s drawing power without taking the flak for using a roster spot for an 0-1 fighter.
Let’s say the UFC wants to cut ties entirely. It wouldn’t be a bad move after the backlash the company faced for not only signing Punk but also for trotting him in front of a national audience at UFC 203. If the UFC goes this route, then the North American Fighting Championship promotion could be a solid fall-back option for Punk. The NAFC is run by Scott Joffe, who has ties to Roufusport. We’ve seen Roufusport fighters enjoy success on the NAFC cards. An appearance at an NAFC event would give Punk the chance to rebuild his brand (and record) without the pressure of competing under the spotlight. Punk is used to competing on a big stage, but that was in an entirely different environment that didn’t involve guys attempting to cause serious bodily harm to him.
The XFO and NAFC run events local to Punk’s Chicago home, meaning he won’t have to travel far. Considering Punk’s experience level, there’s absolutely no shame in the former pro wrestler heading back down to a regional promotion for his next fight. There he can square off against guys with similar experience and skill. This will allow Punk to grow as a martial artist, which, by all accounts, is exactly what Punk wants to do right now. The money won’t be the same, but Punk has never come across as a guy driven by money. He’ll still get a nice payday in the regional gig and won’t be so overmatched once the cage door closes. This sounds like an excellent recipe for clobbering time.