After an unsatisfactory performance in his Octagon debut almost two years ago, CM Punk was granted another shot by the UFC brass. For his second fight, he was matched up against fellow 0-1 fighter Mike Jackson, as they open up the main card of UFC 225.
Based on his debut alone, many have already dismissed Punk’s upcoming fight, along with questions of whether or not he really does deserve his slot in the UFC roster. His coach Duke Roufus, however, assures that fans and observers will be seeing a different CM Punk this time around.
“The first fight, I’m not gonna lie, we all rolled the dice. It was like this crazy science project,” Roufus told MMAFighting.com’s Marc Raimondi in an exclusive interview. “I haven’t been that nervous before a fight before, honestly. And we’re really good friends. Ariel Helwani and myself and Chael Sonnen in Chicago in January 2013, we all sat together with Punk and watched Ben Askren beat Karl Amoussou when Thursday night Bellator was on. We hit it off very well from that point. We became friends. I personally care for the guy very much. He’s a solid individual. It was nerve-wracking.
“That being said, I don’t have those nerves coming into this one, because we had a session [Sunday] with coach [Scott Cushman] and with coach [Daniel] Wanderley with Punk and everything just seemed just all together,” he continued. “Not that he was struggling, but he just peaked out. It’s like he understands the sixth sense of fighting. It took him a while to get that. That’s the thing. Everyone knows the Xs and Os of this stuff and we teach you the Xs and Os, the theories.”
“But there’s instinct. And the instinct is there — the reactions, the seeing things before they happen. Having that sixth sense and he had it. I’m very happy about that. Sometimes fighters never get that.”
Should Punk lose his second UFC fight, there is also a big chance for him to be booted off the roster. But even so, Roufus says the former WWE superstar will be carrying on with his MMA career.
“He’s gonna continue. He’s got too much vested in this,” Roufus said of his 39-year-old fighter. “He truly loves the martial arts lifestyle. He’s very into the culture of this. When he was coming up as a wrestler, he wrestled in Japan, in the Japanese professional wrestling culture is very martial-arts based. A lot of things that I did when I trained in the K-1 dojo in Thailand are a lot of the same things he did in Japanese wrestling. That’s kind of our connection in the gym. He mops the mat every day. There’s a term in wrestling in Japan, it’s called the ‘young boys.’ Those are the young guys.”
“When I stayed my first of many times in Thailand, I had to mop, I had to sweep the gym,” he continued. “I had to do dishes, laundry with the young fighters if I was gonna be accepted as part of the camp. That’s something that he’s done very well. He mops the mat every day when he trains. It’s impressive to see a guy with his success keep that humility and grounding.”
UFC 225 takes place this Saturday, June 9th, in Punk’s hometown of Chicago.