The UFC teased a big announcement to open its UFC 181 pay-per-view on Saturday night, and it delivered.
After Tony Ferguson finished Abel Trujillo in the main card opener, Joe Rogan put an end to weeks of speculation and brought out former WWE champion Phil “CM Punk” Brooks to announce the wrestler’s arrival to the Octagon.
Following his abrupt departure and eventual legal settlement with WWE earlier this year, Punk has decided that, at 36 years of age, it’s now or never for a career in mixed martial arts, a sport he’s long been a fan of.
“I’d say my professional wrestling days are over. I’m sure I’m going to have to do plenty of wrestling in (the Octagon). It’s going to be interesting. It’s awesome to be here,” Punk told Rogan.
“This is something that’s been in the back of my mind for a very, very long time. I have a background in Kempo. I’ve done Brazilizan Jiu-Jitsu off and on for a very, very long time,” he continued. “But the idea being able to step into the Octagon and find out what’s inside myself and test myself is an opportunity that I was not able to deny myself. I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself if I didn’t give this a shot.”
It’s unclear exactly what the path will be for a UFC career for Punk, who is making the move to the UFC with zero competitive mixed martial arts experience to his credit.
As he said, he does have a martial arts background and was a professional wrestler at a very high level for numerous years, but even Lesnar took a fight elsewhere before the UFC took a chance on him. But for Punk, if the UFC was willing, he felt that if he was ever going to give MMA a try, it had to be now.
“I felt like it was now or never. Maybe about three years ago I re-signed with the WWE. I tried to give that the old college try. It’s now or never for me,” said Punk. “I have a limited window, just like all fighters do, and I fully intend to get in there. I’m here for a fight. I’m here to either get my ass kicked or kick somebody’s ass.”
That’s not saying that he’s in it for one fight, just to have the experience and give the UFC a PR boost. This is a career move for Punk.
“This is my new career, 100 percent. I’m going to go full steam ahead, all systems go after today, and it’s going to be fun.”
Punk wasn’t ready to reveal where he would be training, although he clearly has some camps in mind, but said he is likely to fight in the middleweight division, depending upon how the weight cut goes. He indicated that welterweight was also a possibility, but ruled out going to 205 pounds or higher.
The details are still very much up in the air, but as of Saturday night, CM Punk is no longer a WWE Superstar, he’s a UFC fighter.