Phil Brooks, best known as WWE superstar CM Punk, is one of the most polarizing athletes ever to be signed to the UFC. The pro wrestling world and the MMA world have been intertwined before, but CM Punk is seen as particularly controversial because he has no prior fighting experience. Kickboxing champion Duke Roufus took CM Punk into his team to train for the octagon and has had only good things to say about his progress. Transcribed from MMA Fighting, here’s what coach Duke Roufus had to say about CM Punk:
“He’s putting his work in, he shows up every day,” the 45-year old Roufus told Ariel Helwani. “He has a great attitude. He didn’t become successful in the WWE by accident. It’s because he was a worker and he was a value to the organization, not only in the front as a face, but in who he is. People get behind people that are easy to work with, and he’s so easy to work with. It’s awesome.”
“That being said, he came in with Gracie jiu-jitsu. The natural thing he’s good at, which makes me happy, is striking. He’s a natural striker. When he did a scrimmage last week, he was pretty comfortable in the fire. He didn’t freak out, he didn’t panic. That’s what I’m looking for in new fighters. It’s not necessarily skill. You can teach skill, but you can’t teach will. Are they going to run and break during a fight, or are they going to get in there and survive the fire? And that’s what I was impressed with. I think in time, all his skills are going to advance, but if he has the mindset and the will, he’s going to do great.”
Despite the mountain of criticism CM Punk and Roufus himself has received, he pointed out the mark difference in promotional fighting versus other major sports organizations.
“Part of fighting is marquee value,” he said. “Unfortunately, other sports are about being the best. The neat thing about fighting, it’s about how many butts can you put in the seats and marquee value. That being said, I will not let Punk go out and make a mockery of himself or our sport. I love this sport. He’s putting serious work in, he’s putting serious training in, and what I love about him is the attitude. He’s so hungry, and you know what, he doesn’t expect to be treated like a prima donna. He’s running towards the fire instead of running away from it.”
“I don’t know if he’s going to be a champion or a contender, but a lot of guys in the UFC aren’t champions or contenders — but they’re popular,” he said. “They bring fans. They’ve been in the organization for years. Guys like Clay Guida. Guys like Gleison Tibau, they’ve been in the organization — Cole Miller. They’ve been there a while. Everybody wants to be the champion, but that’s the cool thing about the UFC, it’s so hard to be the champion. That’s what makes it special. If you do contribute to the organization, you’re always going to have a job and fight for the UFC. Even a guy like Donald Cerrone who is closest to the belt I think he’s ever been, but we’ve always loved Donald Cerrone because that’s Donald Cerrone. You know you’re going to have a show when Cerrone shows up.”
“I would like a year, honestly,” he said. “Because I want him to be the best product for himself, for the organization, and for the industry. I mean, I want him to go out there and put on a great fight and do great things. Again, the value…his fans are amazing. I just think that his fans…his fans are just going to elevate out sport to a whole new level. MMA is big, but we can always get bigger, and I’m a firm believer that high tide raises all ships.
“What I like about the high tide is it’s helping a lot of people chase their dreams. I’m a firm believer that the big names can help all names in our industry, which I believe doesn’t help in boxing.”
Whether CM Punk and team Roufusport get a year to prepare CM Punk for the Octagon or not, Scifighting will have more on CM Punk’s development from pro wrestler to fighter. Who do you think would make for a good opponent for CM Punk? Do you think his “marquee value” will get him a main card debut?