CM Punk was never my favorite WWE wrestler. Unlike millions of other fans, I wasn't inspired or intrigued by his unique style or his famous speeches when I watched Monday Night Raw. However, two years after walking out on top, leaving the industry behind, and attempting a new career as an MMA fighter, my feelings about CM Punk have completely changed. After last night—despite the quick loss and the busted face—I am now a HUGE CM Punk fan. His post-fight speech after getting beaten quite handily was nothing short of inspiring. He wasn't dejected, or embarrassed, or down on himself; nor was he mad, or defensive, or attempting to make excuses. He had a huge grin on his face. His ear was twice its normal size, he had cuts around his eye, but the man was ecstatic. It was never about winning for Punk. It was about taking a shot and having the guts to try something new at age 37 (I'll turn 37 this December, so it's a bit close to home for me).
You can read a hundred other in-depth articles about this subject (I recommend this one) that are much more informative than this little post, so I'll get to my favorite part about this Punk story. What's funny to me is how negative, sarcastic, and snarky some MMA fans were about Punk's performance, yet how much respect the actual MMA fighters had for what he did. Even UFC star Conor McGregor, one of Punk's biggest detractors and a known WWE hater, showed his respect in a brief interview after the event. "Fair play to Punk. He got in there and faught," he said when asked about his feelings. The gulf of opinion between the real fighters and the guys on the internet who like to comment about fighting was huge.
In the end, Punk lost. "See? I told you he would," said many a person. But if you thought the story of CM Punk fighting in the UFC was about him turning into a world class martial artist in less than two years, winning his first fight, and becoming the next great UFC champion, you're missing the point. You know who didn't miss the point though? The actual UFC fighters. Because only they know what it's like to get in that octagon. It's their respect that Punk earned, even if the brave and all-knowing armchair warriors of the world still think otherwise. There's a big difference between talking about something, and doing it. People in any industry know that (even the drinks business). That's why Punk was all smiles last night. That's why he was on top of the world. He had the courage to get in the ring and take a beating, and that was a milestone for him. In the end, he had nothing to prove to anyone but himself.