CM Punk, the former fake wrestler seeking to become a real fighter, made a long stride toward that goal on Tuesday by engaging in his first sparring session.
The former WWE champion traded with Craig Eckelberg in a cage wearing open-fingered gloves, shin and feet pads, and no headgear. Eckelberg, who competes as a welterweight, owns a perfect 4-0 record. The pair sparred at the Milwaukee gym of kickboxer/trainer Duke Roufus.
“Proud of @CMPunk did his 1st live #MMA Sparring today,” Roufus wrote on Instagram. “You can teach #Skill but you can’t teach #Will getting better every day! He’s very #Dedicated.”
He continued on social media, “Punk has some things to work on but he showed a lot of #Potential.” Does he mean “potential” in a 19-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. way or “potential” in the manner motivational-speaker Pinocchio uses the word?
We asked the man who surely understands CM Punk’s transition from pro wrestling to mixed-martial arts better than anyone on the planet what he thinks of the WWE superstar’s career change.
“I don’t understand why he’s getting such a hard time of making that transition,” Ken Shamrock told Breitbart Sports this weekend. “He’s the only one who’s got anything to lose. He’s taken a career that he’s built in the World Wrestling Federation and made a tremendous superstar. And now he’s taking it and putting it into the ring where he could quite easily lose everything he’s built if he goes in there and gets destroyed.”
Shamrock successfully moved from Japanese professional wrestling to cage fighting in the early 1990s. Before Brock Lesnar or Bobby Lashley traded in their wrestling underwear for MMA trunks, Ken Shamrock did—and he did it quite well, defeating the likes of Dan Severn, Bas Rutten, and Kimo Leopoldo in the cage before returning to the wrestling ring (and then back to the cage) for a late-1990s run in the WWF.
Several other fighters approached by Breitbart Sports on the subject offered condescension rather than support for the quest of the 36-year-old professional wrestler. “Even the worst kid on the Ultimate Fighter show I honestly think would beat him,” UFC welterweight John Howard told Breitbart Sports at Boston’s Faneuil Hall in January. Doomsday questioned whether the UFC could pluck a fighter from its current roster to compete on an even level with CM Punk and enthusiastically expressed interest in a fight with the famous wrestler: “I’ll barely train for that.”
Rick Hawn, an Olympian judoka boasting a 19-4 record in MMA, characterized the sport as increasingly becoming a “freakshow” in the wake of the UFC’s signing of the man named Phil Brooks by his parents. “You have to pay your dues like everybody else,” Hawn told Breitbart Sports. “To have a big name to come in from a fake sport is kind of discouraging.”
The wrestler signed a contract with the UFC in December and looks to compete at 185 or 170 pounds. The UFC holds a card in CM Punk’s native Chicago in late July but given his track record in generating pay-per-view buys the promotion may debut him at their annual blockbuster show, which takes place on July 11 in Las Vegas and already features Conor McGregor-Jose Aldo and Robbie Lawler-Rory MacDonald championship bouts.
Like CM Punk, Shamrock faces skepticism in his return to the cage at 51 to take on Kimbo Slice in a Bellator match this June. When he addressed skepticism regarding the former WWE champion, Shamrock might as well have been addressing the criticism raining down on him for fighting past fifty.
“It’s something that he wants to do,” Shamrock said of CM Punk. “I believe that more people should be able to live their life to the fullest. Don’t wait for things to happen. Make them happen.”