CM Punk officially left his professional wrestling career in 2014 when he left the WWE and signed with the UFC to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
According to Punk, that exit nearly happened years earlier but he opted to remain with WWE, despite the brewing bad blood between him and the promotion about how much the WWE was paying him to perform.
Punk spoke out about his previous contract negotiations on Tuesday during an appearance on "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd, taking a direct swipe at the professional wrestling organization and how they treat their athletes.
"Back in I want to say, 2011, my contract was up and they were trying to re-sign me and they were trying to re-sign me for lowball figures," Punk said.
It’s what they do to the guys. They’re indentured servants. They try to pay them the smallest amount of money you could possibly pay them.
— CM Punk
"It’s what they do to the guys. They’re indentured servants," he continued. "They try to pay them the smallest amount of money you could possibly pay them. There’s no health insurance. You’re responsible for your own travel, your own hotels, your own food on the road. You’re home once a day, maybe. I did that 10 years to get to the WWE and then I did it 10 years there, so my gas tank was empty in that regard."
Punk’s claims about the pay scale with his former promoter has been refuted by WWE in the past where they state the "main roster talent work and travel four and a half days a week with annual compensation ranging from $250,000 to millions."
Looking back now, Punk doesn’t regret his decision to stick around the WWE until 2014, but he also knows he would have immediately shifted gears towards fighting had he not signed a new contract three years earlier.
"In 2011, it was kind of hanging in the balance there and I made the decision to re-sign. It’s not that I regret that decision, it’s just that if I didn’t re-sign, I would have dedicated myself 100-percent to this," Punk said.
"So I re-signed, that story unfolded, that chapter of my book’s over with and now I 100-percent dedicate myself to this now. It’s just later than I anticipated and it’s a bigger challenge now cause I’m older."
The long road to get to his debut fight hasn’t been easy and Punk knows that not everybody is happy that he signed with the UFC in the first place.
So when he finally makes his debut at UFC 203 in Cleveland on Sept. 10 — a 37-year-old rookie facing 24-year old opponent Mickey Gall, who already has his first bout in the Octagon under his belt — Punk knows the odds are stacked against him.
Still, Punk doesn’t believe he’s somehow soiling the sanctity of fighting by making his debut in the UFC versus working his way up through the ranks. He knows not everyone is excited about his upcoming fight, but Punk has always been the kind of person to walk his own path.
"There’s something pure about it that nobody outside that cage can touch. Do I think that I’m ruining the sport? No, absolutely not," Punk said. "Do I know that there are people that are going to say that? Yeah, absolutely, but I don’t got to see them on a daily basis and when I want to shut them off, I just don’t read my Twitter."
Fighting in the UFC is just another instance where Punk has rebelled against a system that told him he couldn’t do it.
"I do find it strange that there are those fringe fans that I think they love something so much that they’re so in love with it that they want to try to protect it and for whatever reason, somebody like myself fighting in the UFC somehow degrades the sport or something like that," Punk explained. "I always think at the end of the day there’s two human beings locked inside of a cage, trying to hurt each other. You can’t really degrade that."