The story of CM Punk -- real name Phil Brooks -- signing a multi-fight deal with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been steadily making waves since it was announced during the UFC 181 pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast last Sat. evening (Dec. 6, 2014).
Plenty have knocked the move, while others heaped praise on UFC for giving the former pro-wrestling personality -- with no prior fighting experience -- a shot in the promotion that is home to the greatest athletes in the sport.
The former WWE champion appeared on FOX Sports Live on Wednesday night after the conclusion of the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 (recap here) and spoke with co-host Jay Onrait about signing on with the biggest MMA promotion in the world and said he was surprised by some of the positive responses he has received from other fighters.
"I'm friendly with a lot of fighters, so when DC (Daniel Cormier) tweets something nice about me that doesn't necessarily shock me. It makes me feel awesome. Somebody like Robbie Lawler, I've never met Robbie Lawler. I've been a fan of his for a long time and for him to tweet ‘Hey, people doubted me too. They are going to doubt you, just do your thing.' It means a lot to me."
Of course, Punk is aware that there will plenty of haters too and he fully embraces where he stands in the eyes of the fans and media.
"I'm a polarizing figure," Punk told Onrait. "I would have it no other way. People either love me and they want to see me succeed, or they hate me and they want to be a part of my demise or watch it. I'm just going to ride that wave."
With no prior fighting experience, Punk is getting an opportunity because of who he is as a former WWE star and the number of eyeballs he will likely bring when he does actually step into the Octagon. Many in the media have said unequivocally that the former WWE champion does not deserve a chance in the UFC.
Onrait asked him if he feels he does.
"Deserve. That is the key word I suppose," Punk said. "I'm not really going to say that I do deserve it. I think time will tell if I deserve it or not. Respect has to be earned, not just given. I very much understand that. I understand the perspective of a lot of the fighters. Some of them are just jumping on the band wagon too and calling names and picking fights. That is what they are supposed to do. That is the fight game and I appreciate that. I will just roll with the punches. I will take all the positives and leave all the negative stuff behind."
Is there anything about his newfound career in fighting that scares him?
"I don't think you can approach anything with such a strong fear of failure that it would prevent you from doing anything," Punk said. "There is a big chance I fall flat on my face with this and obviously it will be in front of the entire world. But that has never stopped me from attempting to do anything. You are talking to a man that crapped himself on national television before, so I'm ready to be embarrassed if it comes to that."
Punk did not have anything new to say as far as his weight class or where he will train. But he did say he is "not so much worried about his weight right now," he is just trying to get in the best shape he possibly can and added, "we are probably looking at 185."
The Chicago native did elaborate on what he has been thinking about as far as picking a gym to begin training goes and said sticking close to home is "very important" to him, but he is willing to sacrifice and move if he has to.
"As far as where I'm going to train? That one I'm not sure about," said Punk, who mentioned he has been called out by flyweights, featherweights and several other fighters from different weight classes. "I think surrounding myself with the right people is a very key ingredient to this. I have to find a place where I am comfortable to an extent but I am taken out of my comfort zone if that makes any sense.
"I don't want to step into a facility where there's people who have these negative feelings towards me and begrudge the fact that I've gotten this opportunity," the former WWE champion said. "Like I said, I completely understand their point of view, I just don't need to be training with someone that is going to actively be trying to hurt me."
Onrait mentioned the Rolling Stone article where Punk admitted striking as his biggest weakness. The MMA novice said he has only sparred a few times with inexperienced fighters, and will not get mix it up with any "killers" until he settles down and picks a place to train. Onrait then followed that up by asking the newest member of the UFC roster about training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and what belt rank he currently holds.
"I've never even gotten my blue belt," Punk admitted. "I've trained so infrequently with Rener Gracie out in Torrance, California. I've never been... It's just nothing that has come about. I know that draws a giant target on my face, but I welcome that. I kind of tell people I'm a white belt for life anyway. I'm always going to be learning and I'm never going to try to throw that in someone's face, like, ‘I'm a blue belt. That means you are a white belt and you suck.' I understand why they think negatively at that, but I gotta be me."
Punk said he "tries not to have any regrets in life," but becoming a fighter is just something he has "wanted to do for a very long time." And he isn't alone in that sentiment.
"And there are actually a lot of pro wrestlers that say if MMA was as popular as it is now or if the money was a little bit better back in the day they would've went down this path," he said. "I know Kurt Angle would have done it. And part of me sort of wishes, yeah, when I was younger."
Punk is aware he is "being afforded opportunities that others probably wouldn't," and when given the floor to close out the interview, he delivered this message to those that are rooting for him and those that aren't.
"If you like fighting and you love me and you want to support me that's awesome," Punk said. "Watch me grow. Watch me fight in the UFC. If you hate me, that is probably even better because you get to watch me get punched in the liver, and punched in the face and people will be trying to choke me and all that other stuff. But, the bottom line is I'm going to show the world what I am made of because I believe in myself and this is a dream of mine and I'm chasing it. So, win, lose, or draw in a lot of ways I've already won. I'm putting myself out there for the world. I'm a raw nerve and everybody gets to come on this ride with me. I think that is part of the fun of this. It is all about the journey, not so much the destination, but when the destination comes you better believe I'm going to try to win."