CM Punk competed in the WWE. Rick Hawn competed at the Olympics. But the UFC announced a deal with the professional wrestler earlier this month as the elite judoka prepared to fight in the co-feature of tonight’s Titan FC’s CBS Sports Network card, on the outside of the premier promotion looking in with some frustration.
“The last couple of years we’ve seem MMA turn into a freakshow,” Hawn tells Breitbart Sports. “It’s lost its value from when it started, when it’s was purely mixed martial arts. It’s basically turned into the WWE.”
The elaborate entrances witnessed in Bellator surely buttress Hawn’s claim. So, too, does the UFC’s actual signing of a professional wrestler sans fighting experience to a two-fight deal.
“You have to pay your dues like everybody else,” the 18-4 mixed-martial artist says of CM Punk. “To have a big name to come in from a fake sport is kind of discouraging. But I’m not really surprised by it.”
Count Hawn, along with Ben Askren, as among those critical of the UFC’s signing yet eager to enter a cage with the professional wrestler, who looks to compete at 185 pounds. “Any fighter would like that fight whether they agree with it or not,” Hawn tells Breitbart Sports. “They’d want to prove a point that [he] shouldn’t have been chosen.”
Certainly CM Punk isn’t the first fake wrestler to transition into real fighting. Kazushi Sakuraba, Brock Lesnar, and Ken Shamrock enjoyed enormously successful careers in mixed-martial arts after first performing in choreographed matches. But the amateur wrestling backgrounds of Sakuraba and Lesnar, and Shamrock’s foray into Japanese professional wrestling occurring before the option of professional mixed-martial arts existed, suggest a different path than traveled by the 36-year-old CM Punk.
The 2004 Olympian believes that the embrace of gimmicks has come at the expense of the sport, which, as indicated by declining pay-per-view buys, has seen better days. He believes MMA would do itself a favor by remaining a “fighting business” rather than morphing into an “entertainment business.” His match tonight with Carlo Prater, pitting Olympic-level judo against elite jiu jitsu, fits into Hawn’s idea of fighting as entertainment in itself.
“Real fans are getting sick of it,” he maintains. “They want to see people fight. That’s what MMA is about.”
The welterweight cage fighter thinks the big TV deals have influenced promoters to look “for things that are going to move the needle.” The UFC certainly accomplished that by signing proven pay-per-view attraction CM Punk.
“I’m not saying this guy’s not an athlete,” the Olympian says of the WWE star. “You’ve got to pay your dues.”