The long and winding road that CM Punk has travelled since leaving the WWE in the early part of 2014 has found a new stop with familiar surroundings. After months of rumours and recent back-and-forth between WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon and the disgruntled former WWE Champion, Punk can now return to the cage to fight. However, Punk will be trading in his tights and boots for shorts and gloves as he announced that he has signed a multi-fight contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
At the organization’s UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II pay-per-view Saturday night, Punk, introduced by his real name of Phil Brooks, was interviewed cageside by UFC color commentator Joe Rogan to announce the signing. Punk declared that his days of professional wrestling are over, but noted that he’d have to do some wrestling in the cage. “The idea of being able to step into the Octagon and find out what’s inside myself and test myself is an opportunity I was not able to deny myself,” Punk said. Asked about whether this was a new adventure or a new career, Punk stated, “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. I have nothing but respect for everybody here at the UFC, everybody who steps in the Octagon to fight. And when it’s all said and done, when I’m finished, everybody’s going to have to respect me because I have come here to fight.” Punk also elaborated that his martial arts background is in Kempo karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and stated that the 170 lbs. welterweight and 185 lbs. middleweight classes are possibilities for his fights in the UFC.
The announcement comes after a whirlwind week for Punk, who appeared on friend and fellow wrestler Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast to detail the split between himself and the WWE. Citing health problems and concerns with the WWE’s wellness protocols, Punk did not hold back any punches, revealing that he was given his walking papers on the day of his wedding to former WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee. Vince McMahon responded with an apology during the live Steve Austin Show podcast on WWE Network Monday night, which Punk criticized further in a second part of his interview with Cabana.
Punk is expected to make his Octagon debut in 2015. Punk summarized the situation best, telling Rogan “it was now or never” to take a shot at his dream. “I have a limited window most fighters don’t have.”
“I’m either here to win or get my ass kicked.”