CM Punk reads his Twitter notifications. He knows the reaction of him transitioning from pro wrestling to MMA has been met with negativity. He also doesn’t really care.
“At the end of the day, it’s about me and not anyone else,” he told SI.com in a long Q&A this week. “But, yeah, I used to not be able to read or walk or ride a bike or drive a car. Those people who are down on me trying this? Shut the f*ck up and don’t watch the fight.”
Punk, the former WWE superstar turned UFC fighter, is currently training at Roufusport in Milwaukee with the likes of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and ONE Championship welterweight titleholder Ben Askren. The 36-year-old is getting a crash course in MMA from coach Duke Roufus after a long career in pro wrestling. A day does not go by when he doesn’t wish he had started MMA much sooner.
“Every day,” Punk said. “‘Damn it, why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?’ I’ll watch an Anthony Pettis from five years ago and go, ‘He was good.’ Then I’ll watch him fight now and think, ‘Jesus he is like a totally different fighter.’ Thinking about all the knowledge I could have attained, yeah, I wish I had started earlier. But again, why dwell? Why not just fill my brain full of knowledge today.”
Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, doesn’t have an opponent named and is not sure when he will make his UFC debut. He said in the interview that it could be eight months or even a year from now. Originally, he seemed set on competing in the middleweight division, but now he’s leaning toward welterweight. Punk’s MMA workouts have melted off the pounds and he’s currently walking at just 190. The 6-foot-2 athlete will do a test cut to 170 before deciding for sure.
“And I’m sure more is coming off,” Punk said of his weight. “It’s just different. I’m not lifting heavy weights every day anymore. In wrestling it’s being as big as you can. That’s out the window. I have a weight to focus on.”
As far as the training part of it, Punk said that he has good days and ones in which he has been humbled.
“I don’t think I’ve learned much that I didn’t already know — apart from technique,” he said. “It’s not like the first day I got hit in the head and said, ‘This is actually hard.’ I know it was hard and I knew what went into it.”
More than anything, he’s enjoying the ability to just train full time. With WWE, he was on the road nearly 300 days per year. Now, he makes a 90-minute ride from his Chicago home to Milwaukee, trains two to three times per day and then goes home to sleep in his own bed.
“What an easy job, right?” Punk said. “It’s way better for me. I was burnt out on traveling, so over it. People think I’m crazy, living in Chicago and driving to Milwaukee every day to train. That’s the easiest thing in the world!”
Punk expects his length to be an advantage, especially if he fights at 170. He also thinks having the experience performing in front of 70,000 to 80,000 at times in WWE will help him with nerves heading into his first UFC fight.
He knows he could get booed and he’s certainly been booed before. Punk does not think going from WWE to the UFC is a major leap and doesn’t care if others do.
“The people who are mad or think this is an embarrassment to the UFC or the sport?” Punk said. “I used to not be able to ride a bike. So when I was learning how to ride a bike, does Lance Armstrong come up to me and say: ‘Who the f*ck are you, trying to learn how to ride a bike?’ My attitude is punk rock across the board: Oh, you don’t think I should do it? Well, I’m going to do it and I’m going to try to be the best I f*cking can.”