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Despite growth as legitimate sport, UFC proves it's still part circus by signing CM Punk (and that's okay)

Duane Prokop/Getty Images

Former professional wrestler Phil Brooks has never participated in a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight.

In addition, he does not belong to a fight camp (his words), and doesn't even know what weight class he expects to compete in, until first completing a "test cut" to see how he feels. These are the kinds of things you have to worry about when you're a 36-year-old fighter with no experience.

Not that it stopped him from signing a multi-fight contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world's premiere combat sports league. Heck, even famed backyard brawler and EliteXC draw Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson had to work his way through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) house.

So what the heck is Brooks doing inside the Octagon?

Well, even if he squares off against Joey Bananas in the opening fight of a 2015 pay-per-view (PPV) card, which is to be expected if UFC hopes to get him licensed by a corresponding athletic commission, every MMA fan who is also an open (or closeted) WWE fan is going to watch.

And vice versa.

That's really what this is all about and proves -- lest we had any doubt -- that UFC President Dana White still has a little P.T. Barnum in him. Does signing CM Punk hurt the legitimacy of the sport? That may depend on how you define UFC as an organization.

A lot of fans (and pundits) expect UFC to represent the apex of the sport, home for the world's elite, where only the best of the best are worthy enough to step foot inside the Octagon. Unfortunately, that's nothing more than a fantasy (for now), because the sport of MMA is too young and UFC has too many events.

There just isn't enough talent to go around.

That's why signing Brooks isn't as crazy as it sounds. The real issue is how UFC decides to promote him. If it's at face value, fans may have an easier time accepting his spot on the roster. But even if he does manage to get that fight against Joey Bananas, it's likely to be more martial and less mixed arts.

But hey, guys who can move the needle get special treatment and those who don't ... well, don't.

I would also caution those fans who were aghast at Saturday's big announcement that we knew what we were getting into from day one. In addition to watching fellow WWE import Brock Lesnar capture the heavyweight crown from storied veteran Randy Couture, UFC also fed washed up boxing blowhard James Toney to "The Natural" back in 2010.

For no other reason than to satisfy curious onlookers, some of whom stuck around to see what this whole MMA thing was about.

Short-term investment for a long-term payoff.

The Toney debacle was a big deal back then, but hardly anyone remembers it now, probably because of how fast the sport recycles talent. I'm sure in a couple of years CM Punk will be a footnote on some longform piece about the evolution of MMA, or a punchline to a joke about the WWE invasion.

Speaking of which...

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