Former WWE star CM Punk returns to the cage on Saturday, but his opponent Mike Jackson has made it clear he wants a memory that lasts a lifetime with a victory.
Phil Brooks, better known as CM Punk, made one of the more controversial UFC debuts in recent history. But, lost in the discussion is that it was through no fault of his own. His opponent, Mike Jackson, has admitted that he has no illusions about embarking on a stellar UFC run and is taking the bout for the purpose of raising his own profile. All of this makes their collision on pay-per-view on Saturday one of the more interesting bouts on a stacked night of action.
When CM Punk announced his UFC debut in 2014, the mixed martial arts world eagerly anticipated the debut of the former WWE superstar who had spent nearly a decade facing the biggest names in the world of pro wrestling. By all accounts, Punk took the process of becoming a mixed martial artist seriously. He joined Roufusport MMA Academy to train under renowned coach Duke Roufus and put in work consistently with seasoned professionals. When he announced his decision, he expressed that he intended to fight wherever he would be given the opportunity. But if the UFC was offering him a good deal to fight for their promotion knowing the extent of his skills, why wouldn’t he take the deal?
His first fight, more than a year after his announcement, would come in 2016 when he faced young prospect Mickey Gall. For his part, Punk was humble in interviews and realistic about his age and skill-set considering the circumstances. However, it did not prevent the UFC from exploiting his star power. On a card featuring heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic taking on Dutch powerhouse Alistair Overeem, it was Punk who received a three part special, Evolution of Punk, on FS1 chronicling his journey to the fight. The former pro wrestler was dominated handily in his debut, but it became known that he fully intended to continue his career as a mixed martial artist. At UFC 225, he will have his sophomore opportunity in his hometown of Chicago.
Mike “The Truth” Jackson, since his UFC debut, has been pegged as the only fighter who stylistically matches up well with Punk. At 33 years old, Jackson is a former boxer and kick boxer but is best known for working on the reporting side of the fight business for Legacy Fighting Alliance. When he faced Mickey Gall in 2016, he was making his own UFC debut and Gall had only been seen once on Dana White’s Lookin’ For a Fight show. Gall needed less than a minute to stop Jackson, but it did not stop “The Truth” from continuing to pursue a possible fight with Punk.
Jackson admits that the fight with Brooks, whom he refuses to call CM Punk, is an unusual one. He is aware Punk is in the UFC because of his star power and that neither can boast their skills inside the cage yet. That has not stopped Jackson from building a feud with Punk. In a story with Uproxx.com, Jackson said:
“Following the Mickey Gall fight, I was in the back and I was getting checked out by the doctors and they’re writing my check. We’re like in this little tent and so, outside the tent, I see Phil and his lady, AJ Lee, standing off in the distance, maybe like 10, 15 yards or so. Anyway, I’m coming out the tent and he awkwardly approaches, and it was like one of those ‘good job, may I shake your hand?’ It was just real awkward. That was the first thing that rubbed me the wrong way. Because again, I’m one of those guys that’s like, “Look, I lost, there was literally no reason for you to come over here and speak to me. Outside of that, you just want to be nice, but this awkward like good job, good effort spiel or whatever he said, that was the first thing that pissed me off.”
According to reports, CM Punk has continued to put in serious work at the gym since his loss to Gall. The question becomes, has he improved in his skills enough that he can compete with a man who has simply spent far more time around the fight game in Jackson. At 40 years old, the biggest criticism against Punk entering MMA was whether he was even going to be able to become a competent martial artist at his age. Jackson by comparison is 33 years old and does not have the same level of wear-and-tear compared with Punk’s years in pro-wrestling. Compared to the rest of the card, this fight needs to be viewed through a different lens. One will have to appreciate the former pro-wrestler continuing his foray into a new world against an opponent who after years outside the cage wants to have his memory that lasts a lifetime under the bright lights.