CM Punk: I’m not trying to follow in the footsteps of Brock Lesnar
The moment CM Punk signed a contract to fight in the UFC, it didn’t take long for everybody to start making comparisons to former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
On the surface the two athletes ran parallel to each other. Both became famous by way of professional wrestling as part of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) before transitioning to fight in the UFC. Lesnar only had one pro fight on his record at the time of his debut, and Punk will begin with zero fights.
But that’s where the similarities end.
Punk is the first person to point out how he’s on a completely different path than Lesnar when he made his UFC debut in 2008.
"I’m a friend of Brock and what he did was absolutely remarkable. I, in no way, am trying to follow in his footsteps," Punk said during a fan Q&A session on Friday.
I, in no way, am trying to follow in his footsteps. I’m not thinking about title, I’m not thinking about anything past training my ass off and my first fight.
— CM Punk on Brock Lesnar
While Punk is an avid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, he admits that he holds no belt level and considers himself a white belt. Lesnar, on the other hand, came into MMA as a former NCAA heavyweight champion with a wrestling pedigree, the same discipline used by five current UFC champions.
Lesnar’s freak athleticism helped him adapt quickly to MMA, but his wrestling roots were the perfect foundation for what ultimately became a championship career with the UFC. Punk says he isn’t considering a title run and may not even contemplate making an attempt to crack the top 10.
"I’m not thinking about title, I’m not thinking about anything past training my ass off and my first fight. What he did was kind of lay the blueprint out there business-wise on how myself, Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta) are handling everything," Punk said, referring to the UFC bosses.
"Me and Brock Lesnar are two different people. He’s an animal and I’m a smaller animal."
With Punk’s admission that he’s nowhere near the caliber of Lesnar when he made his move to the UFC, the question then becomes: How does Punk plan to get battle-ready for his first fight in the Octagon?
The first thing Punk will do is report to training camp on Monday with his new team at Roufus Sport in Milwaukee, where he will learn under head coach Duke Roufus and alongside UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
"I’ve known Duke for a while and I think the familiarity was an easy in, and we just discussed a couple of things. I realize going anywhere and training with anybody, there’s pluses and minuses. That’s a very established camp, dare I say one of the elite," Punk said about his new training home. "They have the lightweight champion and probably one of the best wrestlers in MMA, Ben Askren. He’s a hell of a wrestler.
"I didn’t want to sacrifice quality just for them being close and I certainly wouldn’t be doing that if I do go there full time. It looks like that’s going to be the place."
One thing that still needs to be done before Punk can begin his work with the team is have a conversation with Askren about training at the gym. The former Olympian has voiced his objection to the idea of someone like Punk getting signed to the UFC with zero experience, after White was quoted numerous times doubting Askren’s ability to hang with elite welterweights in the promotion.
The first order of business when Punk reports to duty on Monday will be to have a conversation with Askren just to clear the air and make sure they are on the same page as teammates as well as coach and fighter.
"I still got to talk to Ben. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about," Punk said. "I think Ben gets the aspect of the fight game and he wears the black hat and he does it well. I don’t think he has a personal problem with me. I completely understand his point of view. I am not an Olympic wrestler, he is, so why wouldn’t he question that? I’ll talk to Ben on Monday."
The timeline for Punk’s debut has jumped around quite a bit since the announcement that he would be joining the promotion at UFC 181 in December. At first the idea was Punk possibly would fight as early as July 2015, but then the date got pushed back to lthe fall or winter. As of now there’s no date that Punk has in mind for his first fight in the Octagon, but he’ll know a lot more in about six months.
"I’m going to end up living in the gym for about six months and with the help of the trainers and the coaches and (we’ll) kind of re-evaluate and go from there," Punk said.
When Punk finally debuts he hopes to make the most of his UFC dream. There’s no set amount of fights he hopes to achieve or opponents he wants to face. Punk can’t even guarantee there will be more than one fight right now, but in his mind even if the worst thing possible happens in his debut, he still believes he’ll pick himself up, dust himself off and get right back into the training room for a shot at redemption.
"If it was up to me right now and I lose that fight in embarrassing fashion, I’m back in the gym the next day for fight No. 2," Punk said. "That’s the person I am."