With UFC 225 well and truly wrapped up, most of the post-event speculation has simmered down, leaving fighters to head home and go about their “civilian life”. For some of the athletes, it is a case of going back to the drawing board and planning their next venture, their next play and initial preparations for another opponent. But, one of the main card fighters from UFC 225 has a different task coming out of the Chicago event.
There was a spectrum of interest from fans, fighters and media alike around CM Punks return. Some of which were things like: “Will head coach Duke Roufus have transformed this man in to an actual fighter?”, “is 4 years training enough?”, “will experience in WWE transfer to MMA?” – all questions were answered come fight night.
Without dwelling on the specifics of the fight too much, the summarised version of events showed an inexperienced and somewhat uncoordinated CM Punk step in to the UFC Octagon with a semi-talented striker in Mike “The Truth” Jackson. Over a 3 round display of unnecessary spins after kicks, vertical standing guillotines which had no hope of actually being finished, and questionable ground word, Punk was beaten by a lop-sided decision.
After a fight that has been labelled by the vast majority of the MMA community as “a disaster”, CM Punk did not have a long commute back to his native homeland of Chicago, Illinois, to go about pondering his future in the sport of MMA. Over 1 week later, it’s still unclear if CM Punk will stick to mixed martial arts after an unsuccessful two-fight run in the UFC.
However, one of his trainers from the highly regarded Roufusports gym thinks it’s time for the former WWE star to turn his endeavours to an alternate form of competition. Jiu-jitsu coach Daniel Wanderley, who cornered CM Punk in both of his UFC fights, was recently interviewed by MMA Fighting where he had some post fight thoughts on Brooks’ performance at UFC 225. He also gave an opinion on which direction the former WWE star should be heading in his combat sports journey.
Daniel Wanderley commented whilst speaking to MMA Fighting: “Mike Jackson has a boxing background, so our strategy was to avoid standing with him, CM Punk comes from the wrestling world. It’s fake wrestling with WWE, but he’s more of a grappler than a striker. Even though he has worked on his striking for a long time, it takes years, especially if you’re starting at his age.”
“Our plan was to go for takedowns early. We knew [Jackson] didn’t have much of a ground game, so he could scramble and submit or work on his ground and pound on top. His jiu-jitsu is better when he’s on top. He tried a triangle when he was off his back, but he was already hurt and it was hard to finish. Not that he did something wrong, but I think that the adrenaline of his [WWE] court case, that battle during fight week didn’t help. We were confident that he would win, but unfortunately we couldn’t.”
“We’re proud of him because he went there and fought hard. At one point we thought Mike would end the fight, but we saw his heart there.” he continued.
Wanderley made it apparent that he felt the lacklustre performance was partly based on the pressure going in to the fight and Punk’s personal issues with his freshly concluded, long winded court case with the WWE.
“I think he put that pressure over himself after he lost to Mickey Gall, someone more skilled and technical than both [CM Punk and Jackson]. A few weeks before the fight he had this court case with WWE and I said ‘Punk, we need you to get there and put the gameplan to work. You need to stay focused and be aggressive because that guy wants to hurt you. You have to go there and finish him.’ He said ‘I’ll do it for you guys,’ and I said ‘no, you have to do it for yourself. We’re there for you, but you have to do it for yourself.” said Wanderley.
“I texted him after the fight to check if he was okay,” he continued, “because he went to the hospital, and he said he was fine but heartbroken because he really wanted to win this one for us because we worked hard with him for years. I take that pressure off of him. It was his first time fighting in real fights, it’s hard to get in there and do what you trained in the gym every day.”
When asked about his thoughts on Punk’s future plans, Wanderley had some clear ideas on what he feels would suit CM Punk moving forward. He was of the opinion that commentary would suit the former WWE champion, which would make sense with his wealth of entertainment and microphone experience.
However, Wanderley made it clear that that he should pursue a different sport as a competitor:
“I hope he continues training and maybe enters a jiu-jitsu competition, something he has always talked about. I hope he comes back with a good mindset and keeps training jiu-jitsu because that’s good for his life. I think that’s a perfect sport for him.” Wanderley explained.
“I think he should continue training kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, but training for a [MMA] fight is too hard. I wish he would go on to compete in jiu-jitsu because you face opponents at your age, your skill level, your belt rank, so you don’t fight someone more experienced than you. That’s my recommendation for him.”
Ultimately, whichever route CM Punk decides to take is pretty much down to himself and what opportunities present. However, it is felt that the community is very much in agreeance with Wanderley. It is clear the “Rocky Story” does not always come to fruition, and a non-existant/limited skillset cannot be replaced by heart.