The jury is still out on CM Punk making his transition into the UFC and whether the former WWE champion is crazy to believe he can fight at the highest level of the sport with zero experience or if he just knows something no one else does about his abilities inside the cage.
WWE personality Paul Heyman has been friends with Punk for several years and maintains a close friendship with him to this day. Heyman has talked to Punk regularly since his decision to leave professional wrestling and pursue a new career as a UFC fighter.
As improbable as it seems that the 36-year-old MMA novice could transition to a sport where he has zero experience and still find success might be, Heyman says that’s exactly the reason Punk is doing it in the first place.
"He’s a really driven individual and he’s uncompromising," Heyman said recent on the SI Media podcast. "So he’s uncompromising in his own beliefs and he’s uncompromising in his own values and he’s uncompromising in pursuing his own desires. I’ve said this before, it gets quoted back to me all the time, experience is the greatest inhibitor of creativity that you’ll ever meet in your life.
"It is also the greatest inhibitor of pursuing one’s dreams. Because you learn in terms of creativity of what not to do, but in terms of pursuing your dreams you learn all the reasons why something will fail. If you show me someone who’s afraid of failure, I’ll show you someone who is not a groundbreaking, innovative, pioneer of a certain industry. How many different ways could you have explained to Bill Gates why not to go in the direction he went in his life? They just released a movie on Steve Jobs. This guy broke every rule in the book, every convention and he was unrestrained in his pursuit of what everyone thought was crazy. Same with Vincent Kennedy McMahon. He broke every rule and could be given every reason not to do the things that he did."
On paper, Heyman says Punk (real name Phil Brooks) has every reason to believe he can’t be successful as an MMA fighter.
He has never competed in an amateur fight, holds no ranks in any martial arts and has been training with a full-fledged MMA team for all of 10 months, and at some point in 2016 Punk is expected to step into the Octagon and face an elite competitor in front of thousands of fans and millions watching worldwide.
Punk doesn’t come from a natural athletic background either unlike former UFC heavyweight Brock Lesnar, who transitioned to MMA after years in the WWE while also holding a title as a former NCAA collegiate wrestling champion.
Still, Heyman knows that telling Punk he can’t do something is the surest way to push him even harder into doing it and given his previous success in the WWE, he knows how to succeed when the odds are stacked against him.
"Phil Brooks is not in his mid-thirties, he’s cruising rapidly into his late-thirties. He doesn’t have a documentable athletic background. Do I know that he has been in the gym with the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world for several years? Sure I do, but he’s never been in a competition. I don’t know of any sports he played in high school. He went straight from high school into the wrestling world so there’s no college background there. Brock Lesnar was an NCAA Division I champion, who was a champion in junior college, he was a bad ass wrestling in high school and he was wrestling since he was five years old. He was a competitive athlete so that’s a different jump to make," Heyman explained.
"Phillip Brooks does not have that background. It makes it all the more improbable, which is exactly why he’s so driven to do it. Because he looks in the mirror and he sees not only a rebel and an uncompromising spokesman for the beliefs that are near and dear to him, but he sees someone that will defy conventional wisdom and pull off miracles if that’s what it takes because he has one shot in life and he wants to do something quite special with it."
As far as his future in the UFC goes, there’s still no exact word on when Punk will actually debut yet.
He recently suffered a reported shoulder injury that kept him out of action for approximately a month and his coach Duke Roufus says that he expects Punk to debut sometime in the spring of 2016, although in a perfect world he’d wait until UFC 200 in July.
The only place Punk won’t likely end up whether his MMA endeavors are successful or not is back in the WWE, although even Heyman can’t say there’s never a chance he would return because had the same stance before he came back a few years ago.
"As of right now, ain’t no way he’s ever going back," Heyman said about Punk returning to WWE. "I don’t know if I can make that same statement in the future. I know his mindset is there’s absolutely no way.
"As for his mindset where he is in his journey, I think every moment he takes a breath is one moment closer to his debut. I think the only thing that he sees in his mind right now, 24/7 he is envisioning the moment they lock that Octagon and the referee says ‘fight’."