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Trainer praises CM Punk’s heart, advises him to focus on jiu-jitsu instead of MMA

UFC 203 Open Workout Photos
CM Punk worked with Daniel Wanderley (right) for both of his UFC fights.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s still unclear if CM Punk will stick to mixed martial arts after an unsuccessful two-fight run in the UFC, but one of his trainers thinks it’s time for the former WWE star to do something else.

CM Punk signed with the UFC in Dec. 2014 and made his Octagon debut almost two years later against Mickey Gall. Punk lost that fight via first-round submission, but decided to give it a try one more time against Mike Jackson, who had previously lost to Gall as well.

The pro wrestling star entered the cage with Jackson last Saturday in Chicago, on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 225, but was dominated en route to a one-sided unanimous decision loss.

Roufusport jiu-jitsu coach Daniel Wanderley, who cornered CM Punk in both of his MMA fights, is proud of his heart and dedication, but explained to MMA Fighting that the pro wrestling star did not exactly follow the strategy at UFC 225.

“Mike Jackson has a boxing background, so our strategy was to avoid standing with him,” Wanderley said. “CM Punk comes from the wrestling world. It’s fake wrestling with WWE, but he’s more of a grappler than a striker. Even though he has worked on his striking for a long time, it takes years, especially if you’re starting at his age.”

“Our plan was to go for takedowns early,” he continued. “We knew [Jackson] didn’t have much of a ground game, so he could scramble and submit or work on his ground and pound on top. His jiu-jitsu is better when he’s on top. He tried a triangle when he was off his back, but he was already hurt and it was hard to finish. Not that he did something wrong, but I think that the adrenaline of his [WWE] court case, that battle during fight week didn’t help. We were confident that he would win, but unfortunately we couldn’t.

“We’re proud of him because he went there and fought hard. At one point we thought Mike would end the fight, but we saw his heart there.”

In the end, Wanderley believes that CM Punk brought a lot of pressure over prior to his welterweight clash with fellow 0-1 fighter Jackson.

“I think he put that pressure over himself after he lost to Mickey Gall, someone more skilled and technical than both [CM Punk and Jackson],” Wanderley said. “A few weeks before the fight he had this court case with WWE and I said ‘Punk, we need you to get there and put the gameplan to work. You need to stay focused and be aggressive because that guy wants to hurt you. You have to go there and finish him.’ He said ‘I’ll do it for you guys,’ and I said ‘no, you have to do it for yourself. We’re there for you, but you have to do it for yourself.’”

“I texted him after the fight to check if he was okay,” he continued, “because he went to the hospital, and he said he was fine but heartbroken because he really wanted to win this one for us because we worked hard with him for years. I take that pressure off of him. It was his first time fighting in real fights, it’s hard to get in there and do what you trained in the gym every day.”

Wanderley thinks CM Punk would serve as an excellent commentator in the MMA world, especially with his background in the entertainment business with WWE, but advises him to pursue another sport as a competitor.

“I hope he continues training and maybe enters a jiu-jitsu competition, something he has always talked about,” Wanderley said. “I hope he comes back with a good mindset and keeps training jiu-jitsu because that’s good for his life. I think that’s a perfect sport for him.

“I think he should continue training kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, but training for a [MMA] fight is too hard. I wish he would go on to compete in jiu-jitsu because you face opponents at your age, your skill level, your belt rank, so you don’t fight someone more experienced than you. That’s my recommendation for him.”

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