Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden wrote a scathing article about CM Punk’s beat down at the hands of Mickey Gall. While I agree with Snowden, I think he and many others who have been critical of CM Punk’s effortless shot at UFC have missed one important point: UFC is a business.
A rich guy moving to the front of the line is not a new concept in sports or in any other facet in life. Sports are a business. They all want to make money. When Michael Jordan decided he wanted to play baseball, no one would have stopped him even though he sucked. He puts butts in seats, sells tickets, and moves merchandise. This is what CM Punk was for UFC. Tim Tebow is currently doing the same thing in baseball as well. You could argue that at least Tim Tebow is just taking a minor league spot and not a pro spot but I would argue that a AAA spot is pretty damn coveted by athletes trying to break into baseball. So let’s stop pretending that CM Punk invented the concept of a rich dude getting to do something he isn’t qualified to do.
In any sport, it sucks that someone can drop their name or, simply by the virtue of having millions of dollars, they’re suddenly on the roster. While it feels like CM Punk took someone else’s proverbial spot, he also put some people on the radar. Mickey Gall went into UFC 203 with a 2-0 record. He was an unknown. If Gall would have been squaring off against some random guy from parts unknown instead of CM Punk, win or lose, we would not still be discussing Gall today. That’s assuming he would have even gotten a place on the card had there not been the need for someone who could face a 0-0 record athlete like Punk was. Mickey Gall should be eternally grateful that CM Punk took a whim to fight. In fact, everyone on Saturday’s card should be thankful Punk was there because he put more eyes on them than they would have had without him.
I have never watched an entire UFC pay-per-view prior to UFC 203. I know Ronda Rousey because arm bar and I know Conor McGreggor because he’s obnoxious and I know Brock Lesnar for obvious reasons. That’s the extent of my UFC knowledge. This is the extent of a lot of people’s UFC knowledge, unless they regularly follow the sport. UFC and MMA isn’t pro football. UFC needs help attracting an audience and attaching a well-known name to a fight card is a start. I watched just to see what CM Punk was capable of doing and I am sure many others did the same. It just so happens, I found the other matches pretty engaging and I will probably follow MMA now, at least casually. A casual viewer might become an invested viewer and an invested viewer might BUY pay-per-views. See how that money trail works? Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.