Exclusive: CM Punk is 'absolutely' confident in himself, ready for his UFC debut
CM Punk has a lot of thoughts running through his head when asked if he's ready to finally make his UFC debut.
By Damon Martin
It's been more than a year since former WWE superstar CM Punk signed with the UFC and made the transition from professional wrestler to professional fighter.
During this past 13-month stretch, Punk says he has learned a lot about what it means to be a mixed martial artist and after a ton of speculation it appears he's finally ready to make his Octagon debut this summer.
Punk will be in attendance at UFC 196 on Feb. 6 to watch Mickey Gall face Mike Jackson in the featured prelim on UFC Fight Pass. If Gall wins, he'll face Punk this summer with a likely landing spot at either UFC 199 in June or UFC 200 in July.
So after all the talk, speculation and curiosity about Punk's transition to MMA, with an opponent potentially staring him down in just a few months time, is the former pro wrestler finally ready to fight?
I work my ass off everyday for this. Do I believe I'm ready? Am I confident in myself? Yes, absolutely.
— CM Punk
"You'd have to ask Duke (Roufus)," Punk said when asked by FOX Sports if he feels ready for his first fight. "Ask me that the day of the fight and I'd probably say 'No,' or I'll probably say 'I don't know.' Actually, the day of the fight I'll probably be like 'Yep, let's fight everybody.'
"It's a great question because a part of me wants to say, 'It's not for me to say,' but one of these days you've just got to fight. When is a kid ready to play his first Little League game? I don't know, just go f--king play. When is a kid ready to walk? Sometimes you've just got to do it. You've just got to get on the bike and you've got to ride.
"That's my mindset. I work my ass off everyday for this. Do I believe I'm ready? Am I confident in myself? Yes, absolutely."
Throughout the last year, Punk has dealt with all the rigors of a training camp including an injury that actually knocked him off course from potentially making his debut earlier than mid-2016.
Punk suffered a shoulder injury that put him on the shelf for several weeks and looking back now that he's in the gym again and getting closer to his debut, he admits that the set back was really tough to deal with at the time. He got through the injury and now it's just another lesson learned on his road to finally becoming a UFC fighter.
"It was kind of depressing," Punk said about the injury. "It was a little bit tedious. My shoulder still pops and cracks in odd positions and stuff like that, but it's one of those things you've just got to work through. I was happy to be back. Being out kind of really depressed me."
Under the guidance of head coach Duke Roufus, Punk says he has learned a lot in the past year -- and that's really saying something considering he stepped onto the mats at the Milwaukee-based gym with very minimal skills when it came to real fighting.
Punk dabbled in Brazilian jiu-jitsu when his WWE schedule allowed it, but had never actually sparred or got into full-contact training until he started working with Roufus and his team in Milwaukee.
Now, Punk is starting to really feel like he's not only part of the team, but he's a fighter about to make his debut in the UFC. And he says nothing excites him more than the anticipation of actually stepping through the cage door and staring down his opponent across the Octagon.
"I feel great. To me, sparring with the guys I spar with at the gym, who are all professionals with 20-some-odd fights on their resume, I think because we see each other every day, they know just like I know what their tendencies are. I know when certain guys get tired, I know what they're going to do. So they probably know me better than I know myself and I just know," Punk said.
"If I was getting looks at a guy that I never sparred with before, it would go a long way to boost my confidence. That's how good I feel right now. Everything's coming together. I feel obviously that I've got one of the best striking coaches in MMA. I've got the best jiu-jitsu coach for mixed martial arts, Daniel Wanderley. Everybody at the gym helps me, all the pro fighters, all the amateur fighters. I just started working with Izzy Martinez, so everything is coming together. I couldn't feel better honestly."
For all the preparation and training, Punk is now standing on the precipice of actually booking a fight, getting a date and an opponent if all goes well at UFC 196 in two weeks time. As happy as Punk was to sign with the UFC in the first place, it was all leading to this moment.
Now he's ready to go from UFC hopeful to UFC fighter in just a few short months.
"That's something that does excite me," Punk said. "I've always said I can't wait and I really can't, but now that we know it's going to be June or July, that's just awesome to me.
"I know it's going to feel like eight years from now until then and then the day of I'm going to feel like the time just went by in the blink of an eye. So I'm really just going to try to enjoy the next couple of months and the whole process."