On Saturday, for the second time in the past decade, a former WWE champion debuted in the UFC and lost.
It would be a stretch to say that CM Punk followed in the footsteps of Brock Lesnar, a former NCAA wrestling champion blessed with the body of a Marvel superhero, but the two have a shared history as spandex-clad sports entertainers.
Due to Lesnar’s collegiate wrestling experience, he was matched up with former UFC heavyweight titleholder Frank Mir in his UFC debut despite entering the Octagon with a 1-0 record back in February 2008. Lesnar would lose by submission after pummeling Mir for the majority of their brief contest.
Punk’s opponent at UFC 203, Mickey Gall, had a mere 2-0 professional record, but he may as well have been Georges St-Pierre considering Punk’s lack of competitive fighting experience. Like Lesnar, Punk lost by submission in his first fight, though his performance was far less impressive.
Lesnar went on to become a UFC champion, an outcome that is doubtful for Punk, to put it lightly.
Asked about Punk’s poor showing, UFC president Dana White wasn’t sure what role the 37-year-old MMA neophyte will play in the promotion going forward.
“He probably shouldn’t have his next fight in the UFC,” White told the Fight Network’s John Pollock. “Just like I said with Brock, having your first fight in the UFC is tough even if it’s against a guy who’s 2-0. This is a tough place to learn.”
It’s unclear if the UFC is willing to pursue an arrangement where Punk moves down to the regional scene to face lower level competition while still being contracted to the organization, or if such an arrangement is even possible. But White stopped short of dismissing the fight as a curiosity.
“I don’t know if it was an experiment,” said White. “I became friends with him. He’s a nice guy, I like him, I have a lot of respect for him, he wanted to give it a shot. I gave him his shot.”