UFC President Dana White knows a thing or two about talent. He also knows a thing or two about showmanship and doing everything in his power to sell out arenas by putting stars in the cage that fans want to see. White has also seen the success that former professional wrestlers have had, making the transition from the “squared circle” into the octagon. Brock Lesnar was clearly the best, but Bobby Lashley also impressed, although, like Lesnar, also returned to professional wrestling. After a very messy and public break-up with Vince McMahon and the WWE, former champ CM Punk has become the latest to leave the wrestling ring for life in the UFC. Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, signed a multi-fight deal to join UFC starting in 2015.
“This is my new career, 100 percent,” CM Punk said in a statement. “I’m going to go full steam ahead, all systems go after today, and it’s going to be fun.”
UFC president Dana White said CM Punk intends to fight at middleweight (185 pounds), but said he’d be open to 170 pounds.
While an exact date has not yet been announced, Brooks will make his debut some time in 2015. He does bring a mixed-martial arts background, along with an almost cult-like following. Whether people are rooting for him to succeed or to simply see him back in competition, or even to see if another former wrestler can hack it in UFC, this is a huge coup for White, as he will certainly sell a lot of tickets.
“He wanted to fight here,” White told ESPN.com. “He wanted to give it a shot, so we gave him an opportunity. It’s not like Brock Lesnar. We’re not going to throw the kitchen sink at him. Lesnar had a wrestling background. [Brooks] is going to fight a guy who is 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 — something like that.”
Brooks, 36, knew that he wanted to try fighting in UFC after splitting from WWE. After saying that McMahon fired him on the day of his wedding to current WWE star and former WWE Divas champions A.J. Lee, Punk vowed to never return to wrestling. That gave the ultimate motivation to take the next big step in his career.
“My professional wrestling days are over, it’s awesome to be here,” he said. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I felt like it was now or never. I have a limited window most fighters don’t have. I’m either here to win or get my ass kicked.”
While nobody knows what the future will hold for Brooks in UFC, one thing is for certain.
He will bring a whole new wave of fans along for the ride.