Is CM Punk laying the groundwork for imminent retirement? The former wrestler has been doing his best to burn bridges via recent comments, signalling that a return to the WWE will never happen.
However, statements by CM Punk seem to indicate that if he really has no intention of going back to the WWE, it’s because he already has an “exit strategy” in mind. The question is, will Punk’s body hold up to his grand UFC plans?
Wrestling fans holding out hope that CM Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, would return to the WWE were no doubt let down by his June 28 interview on Colin Cowherd’s radio show. As quoted by Fox Sports, CM Punk was fairly adamant that the WWE “chapter of his book” was now closed.
“Back in I want to say, 2011, my contract was up and they were trying to re-sign me and they were trying to re-sign me for lowball figures…It’s what they do to the guys. They’re indentured servants. They try to pay them the smallest amount of money you could possibly pay them.”
Punk eventually left to join the UFC, which stunned the world with the announcement in December of 2014. Unfortunately for CM Punk and the UFC, nothing of note happened for nearly a year and a half — minus the health issues that forced Punk to delay his Octagon debut.
After months of uncertainty, the way was clear for the ex-wrestler to meet Mickey Gall at UFC 203 in September. However, there are serious concerns as to the implications of the bout. Specifically, whether CM Punk can physically handle even one MMA fight appearance.
This wariness isn’t shared by CM Punk, who MMAFighting quotes as looking beyond his debut against Gall.
“I know people think this is a publicity stunt, I’m never going to set foot in the Octagon,” said Punk. “I look forward to proving them wrong.”
“To me, it’s not super far-fetched to be like, ‘You know what? What if I put three or four wins together? Who’s to say I don’t get a title shot?'”
A WWE wrestler getting a title shot — and winning — isn’t exactly unheard of in the UFC. Much to the chagrin of MMA “purists,” WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar managed to make it happen. However, even the most indignant of fight fans will acknowledge Lesnar had a solid wrestling background before his Octagon debut.
That Lesnar and Punk share a WWE connection is the end of their similarities. Punk’s lack of fight experience, difficulties during training, and health issues are all formidable obstacles. CM Punk’s outlook may be a positive one, but these negative factors have no doubt contributed to his current underdog status.
Even if CM Punk has a sunny outlook about his MMA debut, he seems willing to acknowledge that the UFC is no place to develop long-term plans. The former wrestling star shared that he’s always got an eye on the exit. It was certainly true of his time in the WWE.
“I was surrounded by a lot of old timers on the independent scene before I went to WWE. They were always like, ‘You gotta get out. You gotta get in, you get out. You can make a stupid amount of money, but if you stick around you wear out your welcome. Something bad’s going to happen.'”
This philosophy might be guiding Punk through his UFC career, with possible plans to retire rather than ever set foot in the WWE again. Perhaps one of the biggest clues was CM Punk’s decision pick on the WWE about alleged pay problems. Punk claimed the company “lowballed him,” something that the WWE staunchly denied. But what’s truly undermining his claim isn’t the WWE’s denials, but rather the UFC itself.
So, how much sense does it make for CM Punk to put down the WWE’s pay problems while gingerly stepping around the UFC’s own fighter pay controversies? Not much at all.
It’s entirely possible the comment is proof Punk is hoping to stay in his current bosses’ good graces long enough to get as much money as possible and then retire.
If CM Punk wants to string together profitable matches in the UFC, it’s certainly not going to be easy. As a virtual outsider, his opponents will see it as their duty to make sure he fails to advance in the world of MMA. Debut opponent Mickey Gall said as much during an interview with SiriusXM Fight Club on Tuesday.
“I will look like an a**hole if I get beat by CM Punk. People are treating him like a joke. I’m taking it very seriously.
“I want people to look at like I’m representing real MMA fighters, guys who grinded, guys who had to work sh** jobs to be able to make a little money around their training schedule. I hope people look at it as I’m representing MMA. I plan to back that up.”
Despite the dangerous declarations by Gall, CM Punk views himself as someone who intends to go down swinging and then get up as many times as possible. He believes if he can continue to get up despite being knocked down, it will inevitably lead to good things in the UFC — and a great payday.
Still, things don’t always go according to plan. Should CM Punk become an embarrassing eyesore to the UFC rather than a profitable fighter, he may not be given the opportunities he imagines himself worthy of.
Whatever happens, all signs point towards eventual retirement rather than a trip back to the WWE.
Do you think CM Punk will retire rather than return to the WWE? If so, how many UFC fights do you think it will take before retirement talk becomes official? Share your CM Punk predictions below!
[Image via UFC/FOX]