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Opinion: CM Punk simply cannot win

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BloodyElbow’s Victor Rodriguez opines about why the former WWE superstar is in a very rough spot.

2014 Gibson Brands AP Music Awards - Arrivals Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images

Remember UFC 181?

Way back in early December of 2014, the UFC announced the latest and boldest of signings, former Ring of Honor and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar CM Punk (government name Phillip Jack Brooks). The move turned heads in quick fashion, as the straight-edge star was coming off a very, very public and acrimonious split from his former employer Vince McMahon.

The ongoing tension between Punk and WWE immediately raised multiple questions, and very valid concerns. After all, it was quite obvious that the UFC signed Brooks due to his star power and the curiosity factor of having another professional wrestler not only fighting in mixed martial arts, but competing in the premier organization right off the bat.

It became clear that this was a much more random roll of the dice than anyone had expected at first. Was this an attempt at replicating the success found with Brock Lesnar upon his departure from the professional wrestling world? At least the former heavyweight champion had an NCAA pedigree and a lifelong track record of being an exceptional athlete, and that was before even starting professional wrestling. All Brooks had in his back pocket at the time was a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And there was still the question of what his striking would look like.

As it turns out, he had no real MMA training to speak of and was in search of a team/gym to train at and hone his skills. The general consensus was that with a year of MMA training he'd be ready to start his fight career. As lofty as these expectations were and still are, both Brooks and those around him remained adamant that he'd be successful despite being in his mid-30s and essentially starting from scratch, with not even so much as an amateur fighting record to draw from for experience.

So time went on and close to a year after being signed to the UFC, Brooks has surgery on his shoulder in October of 2015 and later had another surgery in February of this year due to a herniated disc in his back, an injury that appeared to have been from years of wear and tear from professional wrestling.

Fast forward to late June, where it was announced that Punk would finally have a place, time and opponent in the form of Mickey Gall at UFC 203 in Cleveland. Yet during this whole time - almost two years since the date his signing was announced. He's finally facing a fighter that was known for only one fight that he had on the UFC travel/scouting show and quickly dispatched Mike Jackson - an MMA reporter that had an amateur record - back in February.

Perhaps under other circumstances, this could have been a great thing. It's not unheard of for professional wrestlers to cross over with far less scrutiny and skepticism, given that they have at least trained in some form of grappling or are trained by veterans that can teach legitimate submissions and setups, not just showmanship for performance art. Josh Barnett and Kazushi Sakuraba both participated in their teen years as amateur wrestlers before training in catch wrestling. Alberto Del Rio (Rodriguez) was a member of the Mexican national Greco-Roman team and trained under Marco Ruas. As for Brooks? He trained BJJ every once in a while when he could.

The fact that Brooks now has to fight a fighter that's younger, appears to be a better all-around athlete, trains with serious grapplers and has a wrestling-heavy game with more time and experience in the game is bad enough. He has to perform with a greater degree of pressure against an opponent that could derail this entire experiment with the quickness.

If he loses, the whole thing goes up in smoke. Brooks could theoretically get another fight, but opponents would be scarce, and they're hard enough to find already for a guy that's 0-0. Finding a suitable fight for a guy that's 0-1? Good luck with that, and that's not even if he loses badly. However, the benefits to this are clear enough: Brooks wins, we get another curious oddity that only combat sports can deliver, and he validates himself to a degree. But is that still a good thing?

Consider this: Brooks wins against Gall - and I want to be absolutely clear here, he certainly can - where do they go from there? Find and elevate another opponent from the regional scene? I suppose you could, but in retrospect, detractors could easily point to the fact that he only really beat a guy that beat a green opponent that only ever beat up a reporter seen mostly as a part-time fighter (sorry, Mike). Can he reliably be booked for another bout with all of the accumulated injuries he has? Will he even want to continue?

Even with all of those questions answered in due time, the biggest question of all will be whether or not all of these headaches were worth it. Brooks was a major star and his signing made some waves across the MMA and pro-wrestling world, along with some rather unorthodox outlets that usually don't bother with MMA. Yet seeing as it's been so long since the announcement, how much luster has been lost? It's expected that after all this time, enthusiasm has waned to a degree, but what kind of enthusiasm is there for this entire experiment at all? It doesn't seem likely that anyone already leaning towards purchasing this event would be swayed one way or another based on Brooks being on the card.

All things considered, Brooks winning could be a good thing overall. Handled properly, it could be spun into a net positive that could give the organization a bit of good PR courtesy of a man that is still very much popular and loved by many. Considering the year that the sport has had (especially the controversies unique to the UFC), it would be a welcome bit of good news. Certainly not enough to overshadow the plethora of other challenges the organization is facing, and certainly not for them to take this sort of risk again. The only thing we can surmise for now is that the risk may very well not be worth the reward no matter how the story ends, even with a victory.