The Ghost of Personality: Phil 'CM Punk' Is Sacrificed To Us and We Should Feel Terrible
It happened as it was meant to. Yet we watched anyways.
We didn’t have much of a choice, truly. If you are any type of MMA fan, you were tuning in for the heavyweight matchup at the top of the card that lived up to the sum of its parts. So you sat through Phil Brooks and Mickey Gall because, well, it was on.
There was no value in the matchup from the moment it was announced. It takes some serious justifying and fan-fiction to find a narrative that made any sense. We all knew this. But as usually happens, many of us bought into the hype – the UFC marketing machine slipped the soma into our morning coffee and we drank lustily.
There were some who refused. But while most of them did so out of realism – knowing Punk had no place being there, that he would be put in his place violently - many brought with them a vindictive opinion. Brooks would lose no doubt, but they hoped for the violence. While we all tune in expecting forms of trauma, to want it to happen so eagerly to someone is a disappointing proposition.
Ignoring those with damages on their mind, the damages that were incurred by Brooks’ booking were to the sport. What did it say about MMA? What did it say about the sport we all love. This was hardly better than Kimbo vs Dada, now recognized as the spleen of MMA history. When someone with not a single second of professional experience steps into your locker room, it ruins the credibility of everyone in the locker room.
This was a man whose most extensive credentials are a white belt with one black strip in BJJ. Two years of training – which were interrupted by a torn shoulder and back surgery – and you had a damaged work-in-progress. Yet he walked into the UFC without his credentials being tested. The same way not all college degrees are created equal nor all graduate lawyers, not all fighters are created equal. Yet the UFC was able to induce the viewing public into watching Brooks be handed a fat cheque just to write the bar.
Brooks had no reason being in the UFC. We all knew it. That the Ohio Commission sanctioned the bout further damages the credibility not only of the UFC, Dana White, and everyone involved – but the sport. That a professional organization would compel a professional sporting commission to allow such a move is not only pathetic, but also immoral.
But Brooks is hardly free from criticism. He’s as complicit as anyone because he wanted to play fighter. He found a way to do that and make a ton of money doing it. It began with Brooks’ attitude at the weigh-ins. He refused to shake Gall’s and then roared to the crowd like wild man. It was a painful look, an obvious display of a man acting like a fighter. It was amateur hour.
Brooks’ walk to the cage was more of the same. He looked calm and cool as could be expected from a man used to thousands of eyes on him in a given moment. But it further revealed a man who only had one aspect of the sport down pat – how to act like a fighter. Mics caught his coach, Duke Roufus, give his final words of advice before Brooks walked into the cage. They sounded like words a professional coach would tell his fighter if he had nothing worthy to say. In essence, get on him fast and throw fists, if he doesn’t go down get him to the cage, and if he doesn’t go down there, get his back to the mat. Poor, Duke. He had nothing better to say.
And lo and behold, Brooks looked exactly as he meant to. He was dismantled. It was more rough than a standard fight, where we could expect one fighter to competently defend themselves against the aggression of their opponent. Brooks bit on a glaring feint-to-takedown on the very first exchange of the fight.
Now, as tempting as it is to continue the diatribe (for instance, we could go into Brooks’ post-fight disingenuous as it gets. How can a millionaire preach hard work and determination when they have not used those qualities to make it to the stage they were preaching from?) Brooks was thrown into an impossible situation. That he accepted it, on the surface, is admirable. But it’s also reasonable. He was well compensated. Brooks has made a living putting himself fin harms way, what’s another stage to take the risk?
In the end, all our time was wasted. This is a fight that could have happened on a WSOF card or a regional card. But Punk wouldn’t have made the money he did and the UFC wouldn’t have generated the buzz it received. The value would have been ours, the way spectator sports are meant to be. Brooks would have faced a far more suited matchup. He may have competed and had the chance to give it a real go. We would have been witness to competition - not sacrifice. Instead, Brooks flinched at the hint of a punch. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t.
Rhys Dowbiggin @Rdowb
Rhys has worked six years in the public relations industry rubbing shoulders with movie stars (who ignored him) to athletes (who tolerated him). He likes tiki-taka football, jelly beans, and arguing with Bruce about everything.