CM Punk: ‘No One Wants to Get Beat Up In Front of the World’
After years of success as one of the most exciting and enigmatic WWE Superstars in recent history, CM Punk -- also known as the "Second City Saint" and the "Straight Edge Superstar" -- walked away from it all at the height of his career to give mixed martial arts a shot. Sure, there was a precedent for making that move -- Brock Lesnar made a similar transition a few years earlier -- but with Punk, it was a far more tumultuous and interesting ride. Could the man who held the WWE championship for a record-setting 434 straight days have what it takes to dominate the combat sports world? Certainly, the fans wanted to know if he could hang with the top fighters of the UFC. Sadly, Punk didn’t pass his first test with flying colors: in a 2016 fight, Mickey Gall beat him in less than three minutes. Most fans and the media assumed that this UFC experiment might be over. But CM Punk is not one to give up so easily.
That brings us to this weekend, when Punk will be facing another welterweight fighter with a 0-1 record, Mr. Mike Jackson. Mike Jackson’s one career loss? The same Mickey Gall.
We caught up with Punk days before his comeback fight at UFC 225 live from Sweet Home Chicago. It’s pretty clear from his name, ethics, and determination that he comes from a strong punk rock/DIY background and he still calls upon that music for motivation and inspiration. There’s not much jazz, classical and bluegrass in his playlist and aggression is the common thread amongst all his favorite punk and metal bands filling his head.
What bands have been on the CM Punk training mix for Saturday’s big fight?
There are all the usual suspects, Madball, Against Me, Rancid, Bouncing Souls. All the classics! Run the Jewels have been in heavy rotation. They have a lot of tracks that amp me up. I really love the new Turnstile record as well. I fall into wormholes and forget a band existed. One day I will be like “Oh crap, Anthrax” And next thing you know, I’m listening to Anthrax the entire day.
I remember a few years back when we worked with Ice-T and Body Count; you mentioned that “There Goes the Neighborhood” was your original entrance theme from your backyard wrestling days. More famously you used to enter the ring to Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” in the WWE. What song would you chose for your next entrance theme?
There’s a ton of songs I could use. I love Run the Jewels and could probably use half a dozen of those songs. I just think they’re so great.
You’ve had quite a stressful week coming off the heels of your court case with the WWE (the jury found CM Punk not liable in a defamation case filed by WWE’s Dr. Chris Amann) and you have your UFC fight on Saturday. Does the outcome of this one fight affect what your future plans are?
I have no set plans either way. There is no plan if it goes my way and no plan if it doesn't go my way. I think the immediate plan is to fucking relax for a day or two! Cause this has been a couple of weeks for me; I want to eat whatever I want, go to the movies and take my wife to dinner. It’s going to be like a Hawaiian vacation for me. That is definitely in order no matter what happens Saturday.
Do you feel that this is more pressure on you for this fight, or was there more on you for the first fight?
I’m going to go with more pressure. I am fighting in my hometown. No one wants to get beat up in front of the world. It’s not like I wake up and think, “Alright, today I should get my assed kicked.” That’s certainly not my plan for Saturday. Couple that with being in my hometown; you can feel that weight for sure.
You’ve been proudly straight-edge in your public life, what tenets of DIY culture or punk rock ethos do you still use in your daily life?
Well you said it. DIY: "do it yourself." There was a long time in my professional life that I was not happy and there was nothing anyone else could have done to make me happy. There was a big stretch where I was very sick and I was very hurt. Those charged with taking care of my health and well-being weren’t very good at their jobs. Or maybe they were too good at their jobs. For far too long I let people put band-aids on bullet wounds. I used a little of that DIY and checked out. When someone else is making money off of you and using your body, you need to step off the carousel. The only one that was going to make me better was me, and I did that, and I have no apologies for that whatsoever. I know some people are mad about the way I left wrestling, but I’m here to tell you, I’ve seen far too many guys turn to drugs and alcohol and they’re not with us anymore. I’m not saying that to be dramatic, but I was definitely on that road [where] you can’t see the forest for the trees. I was just forced to relive all of that for two weeks and it wasn’t fun. Now, everything is fun.
"Band-Aids for Bullet Wounds" would make for a great band name. Speaking of DIY, let's talk about the upcoming “All-In” independent wrestling event coming up in Chicago. The whole thing is being done in the spirit of DIY and you are doing a signing nearby, sparking tons of Internet rumors and speculation. What do you think about what they’ve accomplished?
I’m proud of those guys. Look what they’ve done. They’re the punk band on the independent label. They might as well be Rancid or Offspring on Epitaph Records. They’ve reached a point in their career where they’re not trying to be [legit], they are. They don't care. If you want to listen to your critics, or listen to people who say you’re a dumb independent wrestler... There was a point in my career where I was like, “This is all I ever wanted to do so I don’t know what your problem is because I’m paying my bills and I got an iPod now, so what’s up?" Success is based on your perspective. They are extremely successful based on my perspective.
To wrap this all up, do you have any final words of warning for your next opponent, Mike Jackson?
No, just stay healthy until Saturday and I will see you in the Octogon. I don’t participate in the forced trash-talk; we are going to fistfight on Saturday.
CM Punk will fight Mike Jackson at the United Center in Chicago this Saturday, June 9th at 10pm; the fight is available on Pay-Per-View.
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