Earlier this week, Duke Roufus posted a photo on Instagram showing CM Punk competing in his first scrimmage fight at the Roufusport training facility. After the photo got a lot of attention online, Roufus spoke to Brett Okamoto at ESPN.com to discuss the fight and CM Punk’s progress thus far.
Rufus said they attempted to simulate an amateur fight in a controlled environment, with approximately 100 people watching. Rufus said the fight was not scored, but Punk would have lost if it was. That said, he still showed a lot of promise:
“We created a crowd scenario,” Roufus said. “All our students got a chance to watch him and were cheering him on. [UFC lightweight champion] Anthony Pettis was in Punk’s corner. There was a lot of hooting and hollering. We tried to make a little Thunderdome the best we could.”
“He did pretty good against a guy who is 4-0. Did he win the match if we had scored it? No, he did not – but that’s cool with him. He likes the struggle. There are certain people who enjoy going into the fire and becoming a phoenix. Most people like to avoid that fire.”
Despite the fact that Punk came up short, Roufus said Punk’s striking ability, conditioning and ability to stay calm surprised him.
“I was surprised with his natural aggression in striking,” Roufus said. “That’s an unknown thing about striking; it’s that sometimes you can teach someone all the tools of the trade, but if they don’t have a trigger finger and the ability to throw under fire, it just doesn’t matter. I was looking for instincts, and he didn’t cave under pressure.”
“I was happy with his fitness level. He didn’t gas out and he didn’t panic. I’ve seen people in there with more training than him who panicked and freaked out.”
They plan to set up another controlled bout for Punk in the next 4-6 weeks, but they’re not interested in rushing him into the UFC Octagon before he’s ready.
“If it takes one year, six months or two years, whenever Punk gets in there, it’s going to be at a high quality,” Roufus said. “Pay-per-view worthy.”