CM Punk and Dana White aren’t doing business with any plans for their UFC experiment to fail, and there’s a way to make sure that it doesn’t fail.
The way to book Punk through a successful multi-fight series is to plot this out like Vince McMahon and his minions in creative at WWE would do.
Punk eventually needs to be able to compete for a UFC title at 185, but with no shootfighting pedigree, he can’t be thrust into the title mix off the bat, as Brock Lesnar, a former NCAA wrestling champion, was in his first run in UFC, and will be again when he returns after WrestleMania 31.
So Dana White makes it clear that Punk will get at the outset opponents with a similar level of experience, meaning Punk gets a tomato can for his debut.
That’s smart booking in two respects. One, we believe it when Punk wins, because we can see him beating a guy with a 1-1, 2-1 record in pro MMA. Two, it reinforces the legitimacy of the, ahem, sport. Think about the collective reaction to Punk fighting a guy with a 10-0 record in his debut and knocking him out, submitting him, winning on points, whatever. “Wow, UFC is overrated. Punk was a fake fighter for how long? And he waltzes in and punks a guy in his first fight?”
So over the course of the multi-fight deal, it gets a little tougher each time. Think: Mike Tyson’s Punchout. Each time out, the water gets a little hotter, Punk rises up to the increasing competition, survives, advances, moves up the ladder.
Again, we’re reinforcing how tough UFC is, and we, the viewing public, build in anticipation and begin to demand that Punk be given a title shot.
All along, UFC does crazy business, because even with Punk being far down the card from the main event, his presence on the bill sells pay-per-views.
By the time he gets his title shot, sometime in 2016, maybe early 2017, he’s in the main event, the buy rate is through the roof, and Dana White, sorely lacking bankable stars at the present time, nods in the direction of Vinny Mac for handing him the passcode to a bank vault full of money.
Am I suggesting that this might be booked more like wrestling than it is actual competition? No. I’m saying it outright.
This is the very definition of what they call in wrestling doing business. White gets pay-per-view buys, Punk gets big paychecks without having to travel 250 days a year, we get a few entertaining fights, as long as we’re able to suspend our disbelief the way we do when we watch WWE.
Don’t think about it; just sit back and enjoy it. It’ll be more fun that way.
– Column by Chris Graham