Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks is set to make his UFC debut against Mickey Gall on the main card of Saturday’s (September 10, 2016) UFC 203 from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, yet there seems to be a shroud of questionable circumstances that have transpired to get Punk licensed to professionally fight in MMA.
Punk has no amateur nor professional MMA bouts to his name, and according to Ohio Administrative Code 3773-7-20(E) via CombatSportsLaw.com, a fighter must have a minimum of five bouts with a winning record to be considered a professional fighter in the state:
A mixed martial arts fighter will be required to have a minimum of five recorded amateur bouts with a winning record prior to being permitted to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter. They may appeal to the executive director or Ohio athletic commission to have this waived.
The Ohio Athletic Commission (OAC) issued Punk a waiver to compete in the UFC’s first-ever pay-per-view from the state. The governing board called it a situation not unlike that of Brock Lesnar – who was recently given a USADA waiver to compete at July 9’s UFC 200, only to test positive for a banned estrogen blocking substance in both pre and post-fight tests – when contacted about the matter by Bloody Elbow:
‘We felt it was like the Brock Lesnar situation, that there’s enough experience, and trust the UFC would have also ensured that he met the qualifications to compete as a Professional. We have permitted others with past experience to turn Professional. That’s why the exemption was put in the rule. We feel that this is a competitive matchup.’
But this only serves to call the Commission’s decision into question, as Subsection(F) of the above Code states that any mixed martial artist over 35 years old – Punk is 37 – must compete in at least three bouts of a masters division before being licensed as a professional, in which the waiver like the one they granted him is actually not permitted:
Masters division: applies to all amateur mixed martial arts contestants ages thirty-five and over. They must compete in this division until they have competed in a minimum of three events. After three events and a winning record they may apply to the executive director or commission to be able to compete in all levels of amateur or professional competition.
So it seems that the OAC granted Brooks a license to fight in a high-profile UFC bout based solely on his longtime combat ‘sports’ experience as a decorated professional wrestler, although it could be obviously argued that those scripted matches, although no doubt physically taxing, are a far cry from fighting another trained man in a cage.
Of course, Ohio could have made the decision to grant Brooks his waiver based on the massive economic payday Cleveland stands to gain from its inaugural UFC pay-per-view. Do you believe they should have bent their own rules and allowed Punk to fight despite his lack of any relevant fighting experience whatsoever?