The mixed martial arts (MMA) return of CM Punk is inevitable. We just don’t know what to expect from the former professional wrestler in his second UFC appearance.
After witnessing Punk get choked out with relative ease by Mickey Gall back at UFC 203, fight fans are finding it difficult to picture Punk making a significant turnaround his next time out. Punk has had 18 months to adjust his skill set and gain knowledge that he didn’t necessarily possess in his Octagon debut.
But will the time off be enough?
According to head coach Duke Roufus, Punk has made huge strides in training and is putting in as much work as anybody else in the gym.
“200 percent [better],” Roufus said of Punk earlier this week during an appearance on The Luke Thomas Show on SiriusXM Rush. “I’m not even his coach. We were friends first before we did this. I would not do this with anyone else except for my friendship with him from before he decided to fight. He’s just one hell of a guy. He’s a celebrity but he’s different than a lot of celebrities I know. Great guy. He works his ass off. He’s very well-liked on our team and he’s improved a lot.”
Looking back on Punk’s debut, which took place in September 2016, Roufus believes that Gall was a tough pill to swallow. But it’s not like the promotion could have given Punk anybody else. Gall was relatively green, hadn’t fought anybody of significance in his professional career, and represented a long line of young fighters who could have given Punk a run for his money.
“Let’s face it, Mickey Gall was a tough draw,” said Roufus. “He’s done quite well in the UFC so far. I think the UFC did the right thing. We don’t want to defame the sport or damage it by putting him in an un-legitimate fight. That being said, it’s very hard. They want him to come in and beat somebody, ya know?”
According to recent reports, that “somebody” may be Mike Jackson at UFC 225 on June 9 in Chicao, Illinois, which makes perfect sense considering Punk is from Chi-Town and Jackson has only one professional fight to his name (a 2016 submission loss to Gall).
“We’re in the process of finishing up the bout agreement and the UFC’s gonna make the announcement soon,” said Roufus. “It’s a good match on both sides. Can’t confirm what date it is. Obviously we’re hoping it’s Chicago, to join Sergio and a bunch of our other teammates on that card.”
Whether or not Punk has actually gotten better since his debut at UFC 203, the promotion is going to give the former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) champion another shot at MMA glory. If Punk is able to pull out a victory this summer then UFC is likely to keep the train rolling heading into 2019.