CM Punk names his MMA GOAT and it's not Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jon Jones, GSP, or Anderson Silva

CM Punk on his return to professional wrestling
CM Punk on his return to professional wrestling

CM Punk has picked Kazushi Sakuraba as his MMA GOAT. He chose the 52-year-old over modern-day greats such as Jon Jones and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The Japanese star originally started as a professional wrestler for the UWF International promotion before branching out into MMA. After losing his debut fight against Kimo Leopoldo, Sakuraba went on to win the UFC Japan heavyweight tournament in 1997.

He joined Pride in 1998 after his professional wrestling stablemate Nobuhiko Takada lost to Rickson Gracie in the promotion's inaugural event. After defeating several high-profile opponents, including Carlos Newton and Vitor Belfort, Sakuraba got his hands on Royler Gracie.

Watch the highlights of Sakubara vs. Royler Gracie below:

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He defeated Royler and called out Rickson Gracie. However, his challenge was accepted by Royce Gracie, who took part in Pride's 2000 Openweight Grand Prix. After a grueling bout, Sakuraba handed Royce his first defeat in MMA.

Sakuraba's rivalry with the Gracie family continued as he went on to defeat Renzo and Ryan Gracie. His exploits earned him the moniker 'The Gracie Hunter'. In his day, the southpaw was Pride's biggest star as his fights routinely drew upwards of 20 million viewers. He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in the pioneer wing.

During an interview with Helen Yee Sports, CM Punk called Sakuraba his MMA GOAT and talked about his admiration for the legend:

"I've got a soft spot in my heart for Sakuraba. Probably a lot of people wouldn't pick Sakuraba. But I'm a pro wrestler at heart and I know Saku is, too. So he's one of those guys that kind of captures everything I love about mixed martial arts. Perennial underdog, ugly ears. What's not to love?"

Check out CM Punk's entire interview with Helen Yee Sports below:

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CM Punk's UFC career

A long-time MMA fan, professional wrestling legend CM Punk harbored a desire to step inside the octagon. After parting ways with WWE, he inked a multiple-fight deal with the UFC in December 2014. Punk began training at the Roufusport MMA Academy and faced Mickey Gall in his first fight at UFC 203 in 2016.

Gall quickly took the fight to the ground and defeated the former WWE Champion by submission in the first round. Punk took on Mike Jackson in his second and final UFC fight in 2018. He initially lost by unanimous decision, but the verdict was later overturned to a no-contest after Jackson tested positive for marijuana.

After a seven-year hiatus, CM Punk returned to professional wrestling in August 2021 when he signed with AEW. He's effectively retired from MMA.

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Edited by Aziel Karthak
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