Floyd and Conor Are More Like a Comedy Duo Than Bitter Rivals After ‘World Tour’

Nobody enjoyed their time on the road more than Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
Maybe in the end that was part of the problem.
The “world tour” designed to drum up hype for the pair’s August 26 boxing match wrapped up Friday in London the same way…

Nobody enjoyed their time on the road more than Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

Maybe in the end that was part of the problem.

The “world tour” designed to drum up hype for the pair’s August 26 boxing match wrapped up Friday in London the same way it began Tuesday in Los Angeles—with Mayweather and McGregor standing on stage screaming obscenities in each other’s faces.

After four press conferences in four days in four different cities, there wasn’t much left to do. We’d already seen everything these two showmen had to offer. In that way, the initial publicity push leading up to next month’s mega-bout in Las Vegas certainly didn’t disappoint.

But it also didn’t really surprise.

The verbal barbs between Mayweather and McGregor remained predictably lowbrow throughout, but—while chaos eternally loomed just off stage—their traveling circus ultimately came off as contrived. Even as they preened and prodded and called each other every nasty name they could think of, it was plain to see there was no real animosity here.

“He could have rode off into the sunset 49-0,” McGregor told the London crowd. “Instead, this is my first time in a boxing ring, and in six weeks I run boxing. How the f–k did they let me roll up in here? They got f–king greedy, that’s how.”

Mayweather just laughed in response.

Indeed, when they finally make it to the ring at T-Mobile Arena next month, we can rest assured the competitive fires will be fully stoked. But this? This was just marketing—with Mayweather and McGregor starring as partners in crime.

“You’re the student. I’m the f–king teacher,” Mayweather told McGregor during his time on the mic Friday. “August 26 I’m going to take you to school.”

Aside from a brief scuffle between their two camps at Thursday’s event in Brooklyn, the fighters never really touched each other during this junket. Near the end of his remarks in London, McGregor rubbed the top of Mayweather’s head with his palm, but the boxer just chuckled at the gesture.

And so it went on. And on. And on.

Through these four events, which routinely started late and just as often dragged in the middle, neither guy succeeded in provoking much of a response from the other. In the end, the vibe was more like a series of celebrity roasts than an airing of real grievances. The back-and-forth flame wars played like banter between the leads in an awkward buddy comedy more than two men embroiled in a blood feud.

As McGregor stalked around the stage in Toronto on Wednesday and implored the crowd to chant “F–k the Mayweathers,” Floyd and his team roared with laughter. When Mayweather tossed handfuls of cash in the air over McGregor’s head at the Barclay’s Center to show that he had money to burn or that he owned McGregor—or something like that—the Irishman used it as a photo op:

Even when McGregor strayed over lines of racial sensitivity and repeatedly harangued Mayweather to “Dance for me, boy,” the boxer and his entourage only grinned at each other like they knew it was coming. And conspiracy-minded fight fans immediately began to speculate: Maybe they did?

And really, Conor and Floyd have no real reason to be mad at each other.

Especially for McGregor, this fight represents the opportunity of a lifetime. After more than two years of rumor and conjecture, the cocksure mixed martial artist has finally landed the opponent who will set his family up for generations. McGregor has already said he could bank $100 million for taking on Mayweather—a notable pay increase from the reported $3 million purse he earned in his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.

“I get to quadruple my net worth for half a fight?” McGregor said in London. “Sign me up.”

Likewise, there was no other adversary in the conventional boxing landscape who could bank Mayweather as much money as McGregor. The greatest pugilist of his generation now has the chance to end his brief retirement and collect a hefty payday for what he surely expects will be a light night of work.

So, yeah, who can blame them if during all this nose-to-nose gum-bumping it occasionally felt as though they could barely keep straight faces.

Aside from Thursday’s train wreck in Brooklyn, the two fighters managed to mostly keep things from going off the rails. McGregor started on shaky footing in L.A. but quickly regained the form UFC fans have grown accustomed to from their lightweight champion since he burst on the scene in 2013.

Meanwhile, Mayweather consistently showed why he’s been a top draw in boxing for years.

This was two of combat sports’ best trash talkers working in tandem to promote an event that will make each of them hundreds of millions of dollars. Every time Mayweather called McGregor a “bitch” or an “eejit” and every time McGregor poked fun at Mayweather’s age, fashion sense or reported trouble with the IRS, they were really just stuffing money in each other’s pockets.

Most everything here was all in good fun.

You could see it on the face of Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, who—dressed to the nines nearly every step of the way—arguably laughed loudest at McGregor’s best lines.

You could see it in the Cheshire cat grin on UFC President Dana White—whose epic sunburn and thunderous introductions of McGregor were among the unsung stars of these events.

You could see it on the grimace of Showtime exec Stephen Espinoza, who, even during McGregor’s profane rants against him and his company, maintained an expression that said he’d sit there as long as it took to cash the checks from this pay-per-view.

And you could see it in the performances of Mayweather and McGregor themselves.

Credit these two men for going out there day after day to sell a grudge where none likely exists. With the bout itself expected to be a dominant victory for Mayweather, this fight had to be sold on the singular nature of the matchup and on doctoring-up some emotion.

Even if behind the scenes they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

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Conor McGregor Tearing Up the Playbook En Route to Combat Sports Ultimate Fight

On Monday night, UFC president Dana White and his promotion’s lightweight champion Conor McGregor announced that they’d struck a deal on the sharing of their side of a fight purse generated by a boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather. Normally, …

On Monday night, UFC president Dana White and his promotion’s lightweight champion Conor McGregor announced that they’d struck a deal on the sharing of their side of a fight purse generated by a boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather. Normally, that would be the easy part of any negotiation—after all, McGregor is under contract with the UFC—but the stakes involved and the co-promotion ensured it was not easy. 

The match promises to be one of the richest in combat sports history, and confident in that knowledge and his role in such a mega-event, McGregor played hardball with the UFC, sidelining himself for several months with the understanding that the UFC needed his services as a cash-generator.

It worked, and in doing so, he has changed the game.

With Monday’s announcement, he has accomplished the seemingly impossible by getting UFC brass to co-promote a bout with another entity, something that Randy Couture and others tried several times over the years with no success.

Whether McGregor gets the fight now—still no sure thing with a hard negotiation with The Money Team looming—he’s already fundamentally altered the fighter/promoter dynamic to bend in his direction. He’s also become the most powerful fighter MMA has seen.

Should both sides reach terms, a fight with Mayweather will only increase McGregor’s stardom, leverage and strength. 

Joining me to discuss this ongoing saga and developing story is Bleacher Report Lead MMA Writer Chad Dundas.

Mike Chiapppetta: Chad, it’s starting to actually seem like we might be seeing this. This crazy long shot of a co-promotion. This bizarre spectacle of capitalism. This circus of the century. 

I will admit to being one who had extreme doubts about the ability of all parties involved to pull this off. I thought egos and purse splits would get in the way. And I have to also admit that I thought getting Dana White & Co. to sign off on it would be the harder negotiation of the two.

With that out of the way, there is a real path to this fight happening. 

Let’s be honest. There is no other way Mayweather can make this kind of money again. He’s 40 years old and he’s been out of the game for nearly two years. His last fight, against Andre Berto, sold about a half-million pay-per-views, according to ESPN.com

But we’re less interested in Mayweather than we are in McGregor, only because of what this will mean going forward, both for him and for the UFC.

In its efforts at a cash-grab, the UFC might have ceded power that it can never recover. The promotion has always emphasized the brand first, so what happens when McGregor goes outside the brand, outside the sport and draws a bigger audience than anything the UFC has ever produced? 

What happens when he proves that at least right now, he is bigger than the brand? Because that’s what he’s on the way to doing.

Will he be content to go back to the UFC and live within their current arrangement? Remember, this is a man who has openly and repeatedly spoken of co-promoting with the UFC, and pretty soon, he may be doing just that. Pretty soon, he may come to the realization that he doesn’t need them at all, that he—like Mayweather—can do his own thing and collect the lion’s share of the cash haul he creates.

I don’t even think it matters whether he wins or loses. The vast majority of the combat sports world takes it as a given that he will lose, yet we want to see it anyway. Why? Because of the star power and spectacle. And that’s not something that will dim now, not this early in his career.

Which makes me wonder: Is the UFC making a mistake by bucking its own system here? For years, it has resisted this very thing for a reason. Chad, do you think this will have reverberations past McGregor and through the roster, or is this just one hell of a headache it’ll have on its hands for as long as McGregor remains signed with the UFC?

Chad Dundas: It’s a marvel, Mike, to consider what McGregor has pulled off here. He’s singlehandedly convinced the UFC to throw away more than 15 years of complete autonomy—once arguably its cardinal value—to secure this fight. Even if Mayweather and his Money Team never agree to terms, McGregor has already triumphed in yet another big battle against his own fight company bosses.

And this one is a doozy.

If he can get the UFC to agree to let him compete outside the Octagon, in a boxing ring, in a fight he will surely lose, he can get it to agree to anything.

It’s remarkable when you consider that for the last decade and a half, White and former UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta ruled the MMA world with such utter impunity. Their near-monopoly over the industry and iron-fisted management style succeeded in keeping nearly the entire roster of fighters in check for much of this sport’s modern history.

Then McGregor came along and smashed that mold beyond all recognition.

That’s a credit to him and him alone. I’m not sure any other MMA fighter will ever have the savvy, skills and hutzpah to take the UFC to the negotiating woodshed so regularly. So, in that way, I think McGegor is an entirely isolated example.

I do think, however, that UFC fighters will try to emulate him, to varying degrees of success. In the last few years, we’ve already started to see more and more fighterstake their grievances with the company public. We’re also nearly continuously hearing rumblings about unionization, though so far those efforts have been miserable failures.

McGregor merely adds fuel to that fire. While I’m not sure his continued victories over the UFC mean a full-scale rebellion is coming, I do think the days of the fight company being able to move unchecked over an entirely servile population of athletes are coming to and end.

And I think McGregor deserves some credit for playing a role in that shift.  

Drifting so close to actually getting the Mayweather fight signed is another reminder that since he arrived in the UFC in 2013, McGregor has been making good on impossible promises. Each time the so-called experts laugh at his plans or shrug him off, he goes out and makes us all look like fools.

So, Mike, at the risk of looking foolish once more, if McGregor lands this fight, how on earth could he top it? Could he return to the UFC as a mere fighter again? Or might we see the rise of McGregor Promotions, another of McGregor’s wild ideas that at first drew laughs but might ultimately turn out to be more legitimate than anyone would’ve thought?

Chiappetta: How can he top it? This is the multi-million dollar question, isn’t it? Because all of what we’ve seen over the four years since McGregor showed up in the Octagon hasn’t been some accident or fate. He’s legitimately called every shot he’s taken, then gone out and accomplished it.

He said he’d win the lightweight belt, that he’d become a two-weight world champion, that he’d become MMA’s highest-paid draw. All of those things have come true, but only by way of his hard work, self-promotion skills and political maneuverings.

And as you mentioned, he’s also talked about launching McGregor Promotions. At this point, why would we doubt him? Anyone who doesn’t believe he’s going to work his damnedest to follow through on his declaration hasn’t been paying attention. 

McGregor Promotions is coming. He’s already told us his end game, and that’s why I think UFC is playing with fire by agreeing to his demands. Don’t get be wrong, I’m glad they did. This is prizefighting, and I think athletes should be able to chase the fights that pay them the most money, even if those fights aren’t the most meaningful in a sporting sense. 

We should all tip our caps to UFC for giving ground. I wouldn’t say this makes them any more fighter-friendly, but it’s a single big step in that direction, albeit in an exceptional circumstance.

Yet, you have to wonder if this is McGregor continuing the, “You give an inch, I’ll take a mile” approach to control his career and future. And if it is, good for him. 

For the longest time, fighters who gave pieces of their lives in the Octagon only to ask for a favor in return, have been shot down. Randy Couture desperately wanted to fight Fedor Emelianenko. Anderson Silva wanted to box Roy Jones. For crying out loud, Georges St-Pierre was lambasted by White just because he decided he needed time away from the sport. And these are guys who have actually made the UFC real money.

McGregor? He ain’t going out like that. He’s going to call his shots and follow through, and White is going to have to deal with him, not the other way around. I love it. Sure, this whole thing will probably end up in some lawsuit-filled debacle, but this is MMA, and chaos is part of the product.

So let’s take this all the way to the conclusion, Chad. Let’s say McGregor and Mayweather reach a deal. They fight. McGregor makes an eight-figure payday. He leaves the ring with a whole new perspective on life. What happens next? Where is his first post-Mayweather fight? The UFC? His own cage? The courtroom?

Chad: It depends on a litany of factors, Mike.

Firstly, McGregor’s goal in any fight against Mayweather should be to just not get embarrassed so badly that it ends up dampening his star power. The last thing he wants is to wind up like Ronda Rousey, the sudden butt of a million internet memes.

But if McGregor plays this correctly—and so far he’s played almost everything correctly—I think he’ll be treated as a conquering hero for taking the Mayweather bout. He’ll ace the promotional lead-up to the fight and, let’s be honest, the boxing and mainstream media will line up to guzzle down the Conor McGregor Show like sweet, sweet nectar.  

The media will laud him for having the guts to cross the aisle and take on one of the greatest boxers of the modern era and fight fans will understand that he’s not competing at his natural sport. So long as he avoids getting completely smashed and then handles the loss with the same dignity he showed after Nate Diaz beat him at UFC 196, he’ll waltz in and out of this matchup with no damage to his legacy.

And then things will get interesting.

You and I have gone back and forth on this before, Mike.

One thing we’ve never seen McGregor do is take a step backward. To him, it’s always on to bigger and better things once a goal is realized. In that way, it’s tough to imagine him fighting Mayweather and then going back to the UFC to accept a low-profile matchup against someone like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson or even Diaz again, for less exposure and a lot less money.

On the other hand, McGregor is only 28 years old—still just a pup, even by the harsh standards of combat sports. As you once put it to me, Mike, a guy who likes his lavish lifestyle as much as McGregor obviously does ain’t gonna quit the money-making business before he even turns 30.

He set a blistering pace during his most recent UFC run, fought four fights in 11 months, won two titles and smashed MMA pay-per-view records at every turn. On May 6, he and longtime partner Dee Devlin welcomed their first child—a boy named Conor Jr.

So, I suppose I’m going to end this by saying I’ve given up trying to anticipate what Conor McGregor will do. I’ve learned the hard way not to take him at his word, but the only thing I can say with reasonable certainty will be that his next project stands to be bigger, bolder and even more audacious than this one.

Can you even imagine?

I, myself, cannot.

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Amateur MMA Fighter Fee Chrystall Opens Up on Battle with Anorexia

In the leaden light of the Scottish morning, Fiona Chrystall—you can call her Fee—would lift the whistling kettle off the stove and pour the boiling water over half a biscuit of Weetabix, a cereal akin to Shredded Wheat. She’d tuck into the…

In the leaden light of the Scottish morning, Fiona Chrystall—you can call her Fee—would lift the whistling kettle off the stove and pour the boiling water over half a biscuit of Weetabix, a cereal akin to Shredded Wheat. She’d tuck into the meal. That was breakfast.         

Eight or so hours later, she would eat for the second and final time of the day. The meal was exactly the same.

And those were the better days.

“There were times,” Chrystall recalls now, “when I didn’t eat or drink anything all day.”

For the better part of her teenage years, that was life for Chrystall. Family and friends watched as anorexia wore her away before their eyes, withering her once-athletic frame down to skeletal proportions.

Her battle with the disease began at age 11. It wasn’t until she was 18 that she began to pull out of its grip in earnest.

Now fit and healthy at age 25, she estimates her 5’3″ frame at one point weighed as little as 30 kilos, or about 66 pounds.

One tool in her fight? Fighting itself, and not symbolically.

Chrystall is an amateur MMA fighter, hoping to turn pro soon.

“I just kind of fell into fighting by accident,” she says. “I took a class while I went to university. I felt like this was for me.”

Though Chrystall acknowledges her battle with anorexia will never be fully behind her, training to fight has become the healthy outlet she says she needed for a natural “super-competitive,” “all-or-nothing” attitude.

“I put the emphasis now on being strong and fit and healthy, rather than looking like a skeleton,” she says. “I still have these thoughts, but in a place where I can logically battle them.”

The results of Chrystall’s turnaround, as documented in an Instagram post that went viral early this month, have been striking:

She posted the photos as part of her involvement with Beat, a United Kingdom eating disorder charity, and to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The “before” photo, taken seven years ago, shows Chrystall emaciated and spindly, her eyes large, sunken and, yes, defiant.

Every so often during this time period, Chrystall‘s friends or family would panic and bring her to the hospital. There, doctors and nurses would force a feeding tube up her nose and down into her stomach, as a means of providing emergency nutrition.

This happened seven times.

Doctors suggested that Chrystall‘s family prepare for the worst.

“At 18 me and my wee maw were told I was a lost cause,” she wrote alongside that post. “I’d had it so long and was so far gone that I would probably always be a chronic anorexic. At the time I was happy as anything, I had no desire to get better. But I know girls that have been told the same who are trying their best. At no point does recovery become unachievable. It is possible and it is wonderful.”

After years of refusing to seriously pursue treatment or even acknowledge a problem, Chrystall finally had a realization when she was 18. That touched off a yearslong recovery process.

“Suddenly I said, ‘I can’t do this to myself or my family,'” she says. “It was a very slow process with lots of ups and downs. … I never really wanted to get better. There’s mental and physical and emotional stuff going on. It’s not just eat and get better. It’s so hard for people who haven’t been there to understand.”

Laura Moretti, a clinical nutrition specialist and eating disorders expert with the Sports Medicine Division of Boston Children’s Hospital, says of the underlying psychology of eating disorders, “You’re putting pressure on yourself to meet your own goals. It’s the drive you have that makes you willing to go above and beyond.”

Moretti also notes, “Athletes are more susceptible [to eating disorders], especially a lot of elite athletes.” Chrystall may not have been an elite athlete when she developed her eating disorder, but she did have that “all-or-nothing,” “super-competitive” attitude so often found in elite athletes.

The long-term health effects of an eating disorder are not behind Chrystall. A loss of bone density can heighten the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, and the reproductive system can become damaged, among other potential dangers. As she sees it, the biggest threat is a relapse of the disease itself, which, as is the case with many mental health issues, never truly disappears.

But now fully healthy and fighting every day, Chrystall says she’s in a good place. The second photo in that Instagram post shows her as the picture of health, as do other photos in the feed.

Many of the photos show her hitting pads and working out at Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She’s currently training away from her native Glasgow, Scotland, in preparation for her third amateur fight in the 105-pound atomweight division.

As she trains, she is experiencing a social media outpouring from new fans and followers who saw one or more of her posts.

“I had a lot of people send me photos and donations,” she says. “All a bit crazy, but [the] whole point was about awareness, so more awareness the better.”


According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders in the United States alone. For more information on anorexia and other eating disorders, visit the NEDA’s resource center.

Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. He is available on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand.

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CM Punk Never Really Had a Shot at Winning in the UFC

In his MMA and UFC debut at UFC 203 on Saturday night, CM Punk got beaten up. Drubbed. Shellacked. Dominated. Mollywhopped. Trounced. Clobbered. Crushed. Thrashed.
You get the idea.
The 37-year-old former professional wrestler walked toward his opponen…

In his MMA and UFC debut at UFC 203 on Saturday night, CM Punk got beaten up. Drubbed. Shellacked. Dominated. Mollywhopped. Trounced. Clobbered. Crushed. Thrashed.

You get the idea.

The 37-year-old former professional wrestler walked toward his opponent, Mickey Gall, and never saw the double-leg takedown coming. Gall simply waited for Punk to come too far forward, ducked under and drove through, planting him against the fence before picking him up and slamming him to the ground.

A vicious barrage of ground strikes opened up a series of guard passes, and before long, Gall was on Punk’s back looking for the submission. It was only a matter of time before the 24-year-old New Jersey native, a veteran of two professional fights and several amateur bouts, eventually sunk in the rear-naked choke for the finish.

At no point did CM Punk offer anything other than defense, and even that was limited. Gall needed just over two minutes to land, per FightMetric, 20 strikes, pass to dominant positions three times and attempt two submissions. 

The most striking thing about the bout wasn’t that CM Punk lost—he was a heavy underdog and few had picked him to win—but that anybody, anywhere thought the fight would go any differently than it did. What happened when CM Punk and Gall met in the Octagon is exactly what you should expect to happen when an actual professional MMA competitor fights a neophyte hobbyist.

To be clear, this isn’t a value judgment about whether CM Punk deserved to be in the UFC, whether he should have gone through with the fight or what kind of person he is. Some media members, such as ESPN’s Arash Markazi, thought that making the attempt to fight professionally was inspiring.

In his post-fight speech, CM Punk emphasized this. “Believe in yourself. Sometimes the outcome isn’t what you desire it to be, but the true failure in life is not trying at all. I know it sounds preachy and kind of weird coming from a guy who just got beat up, but f–k it—this is the time of my life” (warning: Video contains NSFW language).

That’s not a bad sentiment, and if the hundreds of thousands or millions of people who heard it derive some motivation to pursue their dreams from CM Punk’s attempt to fight professionally, good for them. The world probably won’t be a worse place because people decide to try harder.

With that said, what happened in the Octagon plays out in gyms across the country every day. There are levels to MMA. It’s not just about effort, and it’s genuinely farcical to pretend that’s all that matters.

Gall beat CM Punk because he’s more skilled.

This is what I want to do, man,” Gall said at the post-fight press conference (warning: NSFW language). “Since I was 16, every decision I made in my life was towards being here.”

Think about that for a moment. No matter how hard CM Punk worked in the 21 months since the UFC signed him, a time marred with various injuries and layoffs, he was never going to make up the gap in skill in that brief period. He was effectively an amateur making his debut.

Let’s say, very conservatively, that Gall spent an average of 10 hours a week in the gym in the six years he trained to be a professional fighter before CM Punk ever started to seriously work in MMA.

That’s at least 3,000 hours that Gall has spent on the mats drilling grappling and wrestling technique or rolling, hitting pads and working striking drills, sparring, and generally learning what it takes to be a professional fighter. He spent much of that time working with the Miller brothers, a pair of veteran fighters who know what it takes to compete at the highest level.

CM Punk was working from behind even before he stepped through the doors at Roufusport. 

I’ve sparred with professional MMA fighters and professional kickboxers, and even when they were going light, they put a beating on me. Why?

They were better athletes, sure, but mostly they knew so, so much more about both the basics and the intricacies of fighting. They had a deeper understanding of technique in both variety and application, their fundamentals were sharper and they knew how to control the fight-or-flight response that threatens to overwhelm you and force you into making bad decisions in stressful situations.

Even the very worst professional fighters have invested thousands upon thousands of hours in developing those skills, and that’s not a gap that anyone, no matter how dedicated they are, can make up in 21 months of training, even with a good team.

That’s exactly what CM Punk was trying to do against Mickey Gall, and more than a statement about who deserves to be in the UFC or whether the UFC should be booking fights purely to draw eyeballs, this was a referendum on how much better professional fighters are at what they do than everybody else.

In the course of my career covering MMA, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the sport’s elite gyms. I’ve watched practices and individual training sessions at Tristar, Jackson Wink MMA, Kings MMA, Black House and Team Alpha Male.

What watching those practices has made clear is how high the level of technical skill to be even a mediocre professional fighter really is. You grasp how many things they’ve worked on and trained for and their sheer depth of skill; what we see in the cage is just a minuscule fraction of their total knowledge. If you’re a fan of MMA who appreciates technique, it’s genuinely awe-inspiring to watch fighters hone their craft.

What’s even more striking, if you watch a session or two, is the realization they do that every single day, and usually more than once.

Think about how that knowledge compounds over time, the little tricks and details and intricacies they pick up in the course of thousands and thousands of hours.

A guy like Gall, who has spent his entire adult life in that kind of environment, has forgotten more about fighting than CM Punk could have possibly learned in the 21 months since they UFC signed him in December 2014.

That’s not an insult to CM Punk. It’s not hating on him to point this out. It’s not to say that he shouldn’t have gone through with the fight or that he shouldn’t have spent the last couple of years pursuing this goal, if it was a dream of his to fight as a professional. Good for him to get paid, presumably handsomely, for following his dreams.

It’s just a statement of fact, and it doesn’t care how you feel about it.

The competitors we see in the UFC are the product of years and years, thousands of hours, of focused, dedicated training. Everything they do routinely in the cage, from double-leg takedowns to jab-cross combinations to guillotine chokes, requires an incredible amount of skill to pull off. They’ve all worked hard and they’ve all followed their dreams to get there.

This fight, whether you think it was a farce and an insult to the sport of MMA—I’m not one of them—or an inspiration that will drive you to try harder to achieve your goals, should reinforce the audience’s respect for what professional fighters do each and every day.


Patrick Wyman is the Senior MMA Analyst for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Heavy Hands Podcast, your source for the finer points of face-punching. For the history enthusiasts out there, he also hosts The Fall of Rome Podcast on the end of the Roman Empire. He can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

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UFC’s CM Punk Experiment Gets off to a Painful Start

CM Punk’s new career as an MMA fighter got off to a painful start on Saturday.
Punk proved no match for Mickey Gall at UFC 203, as Gall wasted little time taking the former WWE wrestler down and scoring a first-round victory via rear naked choke….

CM Punk’s new career as an MMA fighter got off to a painful start on Saturday.

Punk proved no match for Mickey Gall at UFC 203, as Gall wasted little time taking the former WWE wrestler down and scoring a first-round victory via rear naked choke.

“In life you go big or go home,” Punk told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in the cage when it was over. “I just like to take challenges. This was a hell of a mountain to try to climb. I didn’t get to the summit today, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.”

It was impossible to blame Punk—who retired from professional wrestling in early 2014—for wanting to try his hand at legitimate fighting. He has long been a regular spectator at UFC events and his love for the sport has always seemed sincere.

But at nearly 38 years old and with no competitive athletic experience to speak of, it was always unrealistic to think he could transform himself into a UFC-level fighter with less than two years worth of training.

Gall himself underscored that point again and again while making the media rounds this week. Indeed, Punk’s willingness to have his first-ever fight take place in the UFC had been divisive among fans:

Once the bout got underway, Gall made Punk look every bit the rookie he was.

The 24-year-old New Jersey native dropped low and took Punk down with double-leg during the bout’s opening moments. From there, he landed heavy shots from inside the guard until transitioning to Punk’s back during a scramble.

Gall continued to land winging punches from both sides until Punk (real name: Phil Brooks) opened his defenses enough to allow the choke attempt. It took two tries—once with each arm—but Punk ultimately tapped out after just two minutes, 14 seconds of total action.

Afterward Gall, who was making his second appearance in the UFC, used his time on the mic to call out another of the fight promotion’s pet projects—Sage Northcutt.

“This might [have been] a gimmicky fight, but I’m no gimmick,” Gall told Rogan. “I’m not going f—king anywhere.”

For Punk, some positives came out of this experience, if you chose to look hard enough.

Gall outclassed him inside the cage, but the professional wrestler’s presence alone made this UFC card feel special.

He flashed his theatrical chops at the weigh-in, staring Gall down during their faceoff and then grinning to the crowd as the other fighter retreated from the stage. When Punk’s walkout music hit inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, it felt like a legitimately cool moment.

The size of the spectacle didn’t appear to swallow him and he seemed more excited than nervous to make his MMA debut on such a big stage. Again, he grinned and glowered at Gall as he walked to the cage, stopping just shy of the Octagon door to turn and fire up the crowd.

The actual fighting part of the job still seemed to elude him, but the showmanship and entertainment aspects of the fight game clearly came naturally to him after so much time spent in the world of professional wrestling.

Punk also told Rogan his MMA career won’t be one-and-done.

“I’ll be back, believe it or not,” he said. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life … I know there’s a lot of doubters but, listen, life is about falling down and getting up. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it’s about getting back up.”

To see Punk so quickly and easily defeated by Gall was not necessarily a surprise, after all. He came into this bout as a 3-to-1 underdog according to Odds Shark.

Since signing a multifight deal with the UFC in December 2014 he relocated from Chicago to Milwaukee to train at the gym of renowned coach Duke Roufus.

The training footage that emerged as the fight drew near—in the form of a documentary miniseries produced by the UFC and at least one live social media event—had not been impressive. Punk still looked like a middle-aged man who had only recently taken up fighting.

He looked, frankly, like a guy who would lose a fight to any actual UFC fighter in about two minutes.

That’s exactly what happened, even though Gall only just qualifies as a “UFC fighter,” despite looking good in his pair of Octagon appearances. The fight company found him on UFC President Dana White’s internet reality show and brought him in for the express purpose of fighting Punk.

Once it’s all said and done, however, it might turn out it was Gall who used Punk to springboard himself to a successful UFC career, not the other way around.

It’s anyone’s best guess whether Punk will actually make good on his promise to fight again. It’s possible, however, that his second fight should not be in the UFC. The organization already had to make a special effort to go out and find Gall in order to give him a halfway competitive opponent—and things still didn’t go so well.

Is it even possible the UFC could find someone less qualified for Punk to fight the second time around?

No, it would likely be better for everyone if Punk’s MMA career proceeded along more traditional lines from here. If the guy has any hope at all of fashioning himself into a workable professional fighter, he should do it on the independent circuit.

He should ink a deal with a smaller promotion and take some lower profile bouts against opponents of his own experience and ability levels. If he is serious enough about the sport and talented enough to string a few wins together, then bring him back to the UFC for a second chance.

Otherwise, there’s likely no point in him pursuing his newfound fight career any further.

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