The UFC presented a retro fight his past the Ultimate Fighting Championship this past weekend at UFC 203 when it promoted the circus-like debut of former WWE star CM Punk. Punk and the UFC seized a quick money grab at the expense of the integrity and safety of the sport in a fight that should have never happened under the watch of UFC or any legitimate sporting body.
When Punk signed with the UFC two years ago, anyone with an opinion was skeptical. Those who questioned how someone with Punk’s lack of combat sports (or any organized sport) experience could be signed to fight in the UFC were called haters while those with a little more knowledge of Punk’s story predicted with confidence that he would never get licensed. Two years later not much had changed in the court of public opinion yet the UFC stuck with their plan without any consideration for its fans, its fighters, the sport and least of all Punk.
The hypocrisy of this entire relationship between Punk and the UFC could probably support a book. At the top of the list is Punk criticizing the WWE and Vince McMahon’s handling of his safety while at the same time singing the praises of an organization that signed him to walk into a massacre. Say what you will about Dana White and other UFC officials. They aren’t stupid. Not for one second did these guys think that Punk could transform himself into a competitive fighter with no combat experience in two years and remotely close the skills gap between he and a professional fighter. Whether they expressed confidence in Punk to him or anyone else, these guys knew exactly what they were doing. They were literally mortgaging this guy’s life at the expense of a few hundred thousand buys on pay-per-view. Promoting this fight was arguably the most disgusting thing I have ever seen from this organization and it deserves a close look by anyone with authority.
Rules are in place to make sure these kinds of circus fights don’t happen in MMA, although those rules are obviously open for interpretation. In what should probably be a much bigger story, the Ohio State Athletic Commission (your money at work Ohio tax payers) sanctioned this side show, explained by one of the most ridiculous analogies I have ever heard. According to Ohio Administrative Code 3773-20(E) a fighter cannot be licensed without at least five amateur bouts and a winning record in those fights. However, that rule is subject to appeal by the fighter. That rule is put in place to protect a fighter in exactly this kind of situation yet somehow Punk got passed the statute.
How did this happen? The executive director of the commission gave Punk an exemption based on the fact that “CM Punk has a wrestling background similar to Brock Lesnar being permitted to fight in the past.” Think about that for a second. This is a government official telling the media this, with a straight-face mind you. For the record, Lesnar had an extensive amateur background before getting licensed to fight in MMA. Punk’s only similar wrestling experience with Lesnar. is in a pro wrestling ring. Bernie Profato would have been better off saying, “Well Mr. Punk has extensive experience fighting inside of a cage” than comparing his pro wrestling background to that of a former decorated collegiate athlete. Quite honestly that is something I’d expect to come out of the mouth of a heel manager in a pro wrestling promo, not a government official charged with the responsibility of fighters.
The UFC knew how this was going to go the second they saw Mickey Gall fight. Matchmaker Joe Silva knows this better than anyone else as does Dana White. Quite frankly, what the company did was absolutely disgusting. This isn’t a company in the business of fulfilling dreams to be want-to-be fighters. They signed Punk in hopes that his pro wrestling stardom would bring about more buys. They did this knowing full well that not only was Punk going to get hurt, he could have gotten hurt bad…really bad.
The company did this at the expense of the integrity to the brand. The Punk defenders will say that the move was good for business and that critics don’t understand the big picture. I say you’re wrong! What this did was give the perception that anyone can step in off of the street without any formal background and compete in the UFC, just like they did in the pre-Zuffa era. The company also promoted a UFC fight as a featured fight that was nothing more than a licensed exhibition. It also gives your company a circus-like atmosphere that you probably don’t want. What if Punk won? What would that have said about the sport? Don’t worry they knew full well he wasn’t going to win.
And please, save the praise for Punk trying for someone else. The guy made a minimum $500,000 just to show up. That’s $500,000 before sponsors, bonuses, and incentives kick in. Don’t give me the rhetoric about the sacrifices he made to do this. He had already quit the WWE and he certainly wasn’t going to make this much money for one match on the independents. It was a cash grab for all involved no matter how you look at it.
The fight itself was a scary thing to watch. Scary in that you had an unqualified “white belt” fighting against a brown belt with MMA experience. Anything can happen in that situation and it did. Watching a UFC fighter brutalize a non-fighter with elbows and strikes for two minutes was very difficult. Punk did not have the skillset to defend himself and he could have died…yes died and nobody cared! The company didn’t care, the Ohio State Athletic Commission didn’t care, CM Punk didn’t care, nobody cared and that is troubling.
Heads should be rolling this week. There needs to be an immediate investigation here before this happens again to someone else. Dana White is saying that Punk won’t likely be back in the UFC but what about the next guy? What about the next celebrity that decides he or she wants to “fulfill her dream” by fighting in the UFC? There is already a precedence set here and someone needs to make sure this never happens again.