Since CM announced that he was joining UFC, many people have asked
me how I think he’ll fare inside the Octagon. To be completely honest,
I don’t really know CM Punk all that well, so when people ask me that
question, I can’t necessarily give them a detailed answer.
One thing I do know, though, is how to succeed in both UFC and
professional wrestling, and as Punk starts his preparation, he has two
key advantages in his favor, the biggest of which is simply his history
as a WWE superstar of great magnitude.
I’ve fought all over the world, winning more than 100 fights inside a
cage and multiple major championships inside the squared circle, and I
know what it’s like to fight six or seven times a week. Punk does, too,
and in the current MMA scene, his background can only help him,
especially as it relates to conditioning.
When someone fights only a handful of times a year, he’ll have the
ability to properly train and prepare for 15 minutes of maximum effort.
However, what you might not realize is that Punk, like all professional
wrestlers, is used to working hurt and doing so more often than not, so
if and when there’s a time—in training or in a fight itself—where he’s
less than 100 percent, he can draw upon his past in dealing with it.
Truthfully, of all the disciplines I’ve competed in, I’ve been hurt
worse during my amateur wrestling career than I ever was in
professional wrestling or in cage fighting. In fact, out of those three
disciplines, Ultimate Fighting was the easiest for me to do! That may
seem like a contradiction given the nature of that beast, but it’s
The other advantage that wrestling may have given Punk is what you’d call being a “ring general.”
To me, there are techniques and there are tactics in cage fighting,
and I was one of the first to utilize the tactic of using the cage wall
in my favor. You were allowed to grab the fence when I was fighting, so
whenever I’d get into a cage, I’d always inspect it to see how solid it
was. The posts were obviously the hardest, but I would test the wall to
see how much it would give and where (and how) I could best use the
cage to my advantage.
You can’t grab the fence anymore, but current fighters are starting to
utilize that cage wall again. Whether it’s as a springboard—stepping up
on it to throw head kicks, superman punches, or flying knees—or as a
defensive tactic to get into position for a submission, it’s all the
same. In a way, it’s almost like using the ropes in a wrestling ring as
an offensive advantage instead of a boundary, and Punk should be very
adept at that.
Now, with all that said, Punk of course faces some key
disadvantages, too. There are two big ones in my mind, one of which is
something many have already brought up: age.
Punk turns 37 in 2015, and in his defense, I was 36 years old myself
when I first competed in UFC back in 1994. But if I can be honest, I
felt like I was almost a decade past my prime as an amateur wrestler
when I started in UFC; I consider that era “Dan Severn residue,”
because from 1984-86, I ruled the world as an amateur wrestler, and by
the time I got to UFC, I thought I’d already be retired.
Age can be overcome, but I think the game has changed so much since the
beginning of UFC, and the quality of athletes has risen so much that,
honestly, he’d have had a better chance in the early days than he does
now. UFC in its beginnings was like the Wild West, with multiple
disciplines clashing, no weight classes, and only two rules. But
whether you were a grappler or a striker, you quickly learned you had
to be adept enough at both to succeed. With limited experience in one
realm and limited time to make up for it, can Punk do that on the fly?
Maybe, but in a young man’s game, he’s behind the eight-ball already.
His other big disadvantage, one you may not realize, is a three-letter word: WWE.
For one thing, because people have seen the success that Brock
Lesnar and others have had in the Octagon, Punk instantly has an unfair
comparison to live up to. See, most of those guys were heavyweights,
and in MMA, like in boxing and wrestling, there’s a big difference in
fighting styles among different weight classes. People like to see the
heavyweights, but it’s the lighter weights who are exerting the most
energy and it’s in that middle ground where there’s the most
competition, so Punk’s facing a double-edged sword there.
And, because of his wrestling success, Punk is an “outsider” and
will have a bull’s-eye on his back. I remember in my amateur days
seeing some of the better guys wearing pink singlets, because they knew
it was a blow to your ego to lose to a guy in a pink singlet. In Punk’s
case, opponents may put in a little more effort when fighting him
because they don’t want to be the guy who lost to a wrestler.
In summation, I really can’t predict just how well CM Punk will fare
in UFC. I do, however, hope that he truly understands what is in his
grasp and is willing to put in the work it takes to succeed.
He’ll only be as successful as he prepares himself to be, and what
he gets out of his UFC career will solely be determined by how much he
puts into it. In the end, only he can make or break himself.
Visit Dan Severn’s website at www.dansevern.com