One of the biggest concerns regarding CM Punk’s sudden addition to the UFC roster was the amount of damage his body took over 15 years of pro wrestling. Few wrestlers make it out of the business without a laundry list of serious injuries and concussions, and Punk was no exception. The most serious issues we know about are with his back and his shoulder, both of which have been operated on since the former WWE superstar announced he’d fight in the UFC.
But that’s not all bad news. According to his MMA coach Duke Roufus, CM Punk returned from his back surgery a new man. Via MMA Mania:
“Well the shoulder surgery was a bummer for sure, but the back surgery was incredible because when he first came to us we were like, ‘wow this guy is not that strong from being in the WWE and lifting these big dudes up.’ Well that wasn’t the case. The guy’s back was so fried and his pain threshold was so high. Guys in the WWE, they have to drive from venue to venue. 300 nights a year they’re doing that. It’s so rough on their bodies. The pain threshold is one thing that people understand from that industry they have to go wrestle every day. The show must go on. So once he got the surgery we were like, ‘wow this guy is a completely different guy now that his back is fixed.’ That was the turning point to this whole situation when he got his power back.”
This may explain some of the terrible flailing we saw that passed for sparring early into CM Punk’s MMA journey, and I’m sure this gives hope to those praying for Punk to pull off a win on Saturday night. The interview with Duke Roufus goes on to flatter Punk both as a dedicated student of the game and tenacious fighter in the cage, but the renowned trainer was also careful not to over-promise or oversell him.
“On Wednesday night he ended up taking down a really good wrestler and I was like, ‘wow.’ He is shrinking the gap to what was happening to him to what he is now doing to high-level guys. That’s the thing: he’s landing punches, hitting submissions, hitting takedowns against guys, who on paper should have a lot more than him.”
That’s promising news for a student in training … not so much for someone about to make their professional UFC debut against a promising prospect. For the record, the gambling odds on the CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall fight sit at +375 Punk and -470 Gall. That makes Punk a heavy underdog, but not as much of an underdog as, say, many of the +800 to +1100 women during Ronda Rousey’s run of destruction.
There’s just too many unknowns regarding Punk’s abilities in the cage to make a proper guess how things will turn out Saturday night … but the sport has never been kind to crossover stars. Personally, I’m just rooting for him to put on a good fight and not get squashed in under a minute or mercilessly beaten down.