But while the rest of the world moved on with Punk out of sight and out of mind, the fight was just beginning for the pride of Chicago.
He had made his debut, knowing what it was like to take the walk and compete in the Octagon. And despite the disappointing outcome, he decided to dedicate himself in the gym and give this whole fighting thing another shot.
But at 39 years old, the bumps and bruises of the rigorous MMA training regimen kept him out of action for stretches of time as he plotted his return. Then, when he finally had a healthy run and everything seemed to be clicking, he got the call to fight in his hometown of Chicago. This was an opportunity his coach Duke Roufus told him he couldn’t turn down.
So here we are on the eve of Punk’s second fight in the UFC. He’s more prepared and healthy than last time, and this version of Punk the fighter plans to deliver a memorable performance on Saturday night.
“I’m just better all around,” he said. “I also think physically I’m in better shape. I fought Mickey maybe four or five months after major back surgery. As much as I would have told you I felt great back then, I feel even better right now. Everything is firing on all cylinders now. This camp I was sparring more and just doing more of everything.”
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The intrigue of Punk’s transition from pro wrestling to mixed martial arts is built on his immense popularity. Some athletes and celebrities reach the highest of heights and grab the attention of fans like few in their line of work.
Punk is grateful for the legion of fans who have supported him in his venture into fighting and he’s hoping to reward them with a win against Mike Jackson at UFC 225.
“It plays out with a victory,” Punk said. “I said in the past that I would visualize my first fight and there would be times I could visualize that it wasn’t going to go my way and I would get stuck in a bad position. This time I could try to visualize that and it’s like my mind won’t allow it to even creep in. I don’t have the headspace for a negative outcome.”
Punk’s quest for redemption is admirable. He wants to test himself and compete on the biggest stage imaginable.
Quitting never crossed his mind after the setback against Gall. Instead, he worked to improve and now the only thing on his mind is getting his hand raised.
“It would have been easy to just quit and walk away,” Punk said. “But I’ve kind of never done the easy thing. To me, the harder I work the bigger the victory.”