When the UFC signed former pro wrestler Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks last December, it brought about mixed emotions and strong opinions within the MMA community. Many fighters and fans have shown disdain for what they feel is an unwarranted opportunity, while others welcome Brooks and are excited to see him test his mettle in the cage.
On one side, you have the doubters and naysayers who are steadfastly opposed to Punk fighting in the UFC, or anywhere but the amateur promotions. The biggest issue for these people is that he hasn’t started small and “climbed the ladder” to reach the UFC like just about every other fighter has had to.
They feel that CM Punk has leapfrogged others solely because of the name value he achieved in pro wrestling. While that may be true, Brock Lesnar was brought into the UFC after just one fight, and received the same skepticism. Brock became a UFC champion and shattered pay-per-view records, revitalizing his division and shaking up the sport. Granted, Lesnar is a massive NCAA division 1 wrestling champion, but like Punk, he had an innate need to improve and excel at MMA; and soaked up every bit of knowledge like a sponge.
Punk has been placed on a similar fast track, and it has ruffled plenty of feathers, but you cannot blame him for this. In fact, the Chicago native didn’t even request a shot in the UFC. It was the company’s President, Dana White, who called Phil and suggested they get together with CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and discuss a deal.
Sure, Punk had occasionally expressed his appreciation for the sport, and even entertained the possibility of delving into it someday. But he never asked for such an immediate and grandiose opportunity. Brooks never planned to start in the UFC, and while talking with Dana and Lorenzo, he even suggested a tryout for The Ultimate Fighter first. The brass said no.
The fact is, CM Punk would have fought anywhere. He has expressed a deep motivation to try his hand at a real combat sport, a window of opportunity that is closing more and more with each passing year. If the UFC had not made Brooks an offer, another organization certainly would have scooped him up.
Also, Dana has stated that Punk’s first MMA fight will be against another “green” fighter, someone with maybe one or two fights, if any. In a sense, this makes Phil’s first scrap more like an amateur bout, because his opponent will also have very minimal experience in the cage. It allows Punk to get his feet wet and essentially do what his critics are demanding – start from the bottom.
This is one reason why fighters should not be calling him out. Unless you’re an amateur MMA fighter or you have only had a couple of professional fights, you’re basically just picking on the new guy. Obviously there will be millions of viewers and big bucks in it for Punk’s opponent, but experienced fighters look weak when preying on the rookie.
Brooks’ MMA skills, or lack thereof, have come under question many times as well. He has practiced jiu-jitsu for a few years under the tutelage of Ryron and Rener Gracie, yet many fans are either unaware of this, or they simply overlook this relevant fact.
In addition to rolling with the Gracie’s, Phil has also been training for the past several months at Roufusport Martial Arts Academy in Milwaukee, one of the most prestigious MMA gyms in the country. It is owned by legendary kickboxer Duke Roufus, and is home to many great fighters, including One FC Welterweight Champion Ben Askren and former WEC and UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis.
So the next time you doubt Punk’s chances in the cage, head on over to Roufusport and watch him spar with Pettis, or work on his wrestling with Askren. And while you’re at it, give MMA a shot and sign up for a session like Punk did. Would you come back for more the next day?
Punk has devoted all of his time and energy to pursuing his goals, something everyone should respect. His dedication to learning the game is evident by his recent move to Milwaukee, which he made in order to train longer each day and acquire his skills at a faster rate. There is little time to waste, and Brooks is seizing every opportunity to learn and improve.
He will have the chance to showcase his skills in his first fight, probably at the end of the year or early 2016. Punk will likely surprise the majority of those who give him a chance and tune in for his fights. One of the great things about this sport is that many questions are answered when the cage door closes. When the dust settles, there may be more questions; but for now, let’s just wait and see.
Regardless of how you feel about CM Punk, he will create a lot of new MMA fans when he debuts, and that can only help the sport. Much like when Brock debuted, hordes of Punk supporters will tune in to watch him perform in this “cool new thing” called UFC. The cash will be rolling in, and whoever ends up fighting on the same card will benefit from the potential record-breaking viewership.
If you think Phil Brooks doesn’t deserve to fight in the UFC, root for his opponent when they fight. Punk couldn’t care less, he’s doing this to prove something to himself, not anyone else. On this side of the fence, we’re not saying he’s already earned his spot. All we are saying, is give Punk a chance.
– Jeremey Kappler
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