When CM Punk was in the WWE, he would attend various UFC events. He has always been an avid fan of the sport and had contemplated in 2011 of making the jump but had instead resigned with WWE. During those trips to those shows throughout the years, he ended up striking up a friendship with UFC president Dana White.
In Jan. 2014, the former WWE champion left the company and vowed to never return. Then at UFC 181 in Dec. of the same year, Punk announced he had signed a deal to fight for the UFC.
After a couple hiccups in the road, Punk will be making his UFC debut against Mickey Gall at UFC 203.
Many have ridiculed the signing saying things like: it is a publicity stunt, it was taking a spot away from somebody else, why would you sign someone who has never had an MMA fight, knew none of the basic skills of the sport except for spot Brazilian jiu-jitsu training with Rener Gracie and someone who doesn't have an athletic background. He does have at least one fan and it is the man who signs his paycheck.
“CM Punk was a huge UFC fan," White said on the Ric Flair Show. "He and I became friends and it was his dream to come try and compete in the UFC. And I said, ‘you know what? I’ll let you give it a shot.’ The guy [has] been working hard. There were a lot of jokes made when he came into the sport and people are still making jokes about the guy."
Punk trains at Roufusport in Milwaukee with famed trainer Duke Roufus. The fighters who train at the gym include UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis and former Bellator and current OneFC welterweight champion Ben Askren.
White has been told by people at the gym how hard the Chicago native has been training to beat Gall. And due to those factors, he has earned the respect of his boss.
"But I’ll tell you what, the team that he trains with, Duke Roufus’s team, everybody there respects CM Punk," White said. "The guy [has] worked hard, he’s in there every day, he doesn’t go in there with ‘I’m a superstar’ attitude, he started from the bottom and worked his way up, and everybody respects him. So we’ll see. Win, lose, or draw, I have a lot of respect for the guy and how hard he [has] gone after it.”
UFC 203 takes place on Sept. 10 from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The main event features Stipe Miocic defending the UFC heavyweight title battling Alistair Overeem. Fightful.com will have full, live coverage, including a post-show podcast.