CM Punk has sparred, trained, even sprayed down workout mats at his training academy.
He’s accomplished most of his goals in UFC except priming for an actual fight.
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After a prolonged wait, it’s closing in on clobberin’ time for Punk. The former WWE superstar itching to fight inside the cage since he signed with the company in December 2014 is closer to his UFC debut.
UFC President Dana White said this week that welterweight Mickey Gall would be Punk’s first opponent should Gall defeat Michael Jackson at UFC 196 on Feb. 6 in Las Vegas. No fight date has been announced.
Punk told The Associated Press on Friday he hoped the potential fight with Gall would take place at UFC 200 in July.
Punk has no opponent lined up should Gall lose his fight.
“You get kind of aimless when you’re just in the gym training to train,” Punk said by phone. “I’m not training for a rank, I’m training for a fight. When you don’t have a fight date, you don’t have a fight opponent, you’re just kind of in there.”
The 37-year-old Punk trains under Duke Roufus at the Roufusport Martial Arts Academy in Milwaukee. Punk, born Phil Brooks, has never fought an MMA bout.
“This is new to me,” Punk said. “It’s not the same old boring (stuff) that I’ve been doing for God knows how long. People are talking about it. Some people are upset, some people love it, some people think it’s inspirational. I’m pretty sure everybody has an opinion on it.”
Punk originally set a hopeful late 2015 debut and may have fought already had he not injured his left shoulder last year. He stayed active and rode a bike, though he couldn’t perform simple workouts such as push-ups and rope jumping. He said he still suffers “aches and pains” and has focused on grappling and jiu-jitsu to strengthen his shoulder.
“I don’t think there’s a day that I feel is wasted,” Punk said.
But first, Gall has to win his fight. He was introduced to the UFC fanbase on White’s online series, “Looking For a Fight,” which was used as a vehicle to find Punk’s first foe. Gall won his only other professional MMA fight and immediately called out Punk.
“I finish CM Punk. I’m not sure if I knock him out or I submit him, but I think it ends and I think it ends in the first round,” Gall told Fox Sports.
Punk cut some of the best promos in the WWE en route toward becoming one of the biggest stars in company history. He’s always game for some trash talk to promote a fight.
“Of course he says he’s going to finish me in the first round. I would have it no other way,” Punk said. “He’s coming to finish me and I’m coming to finish him.”
Billed as the “Best in the World” in WWE, Punk’s debut would surely add some publicity and pay-per-view sales to UFC 200 now that former women’s champion Ronda Rousey said she won’t fight on the card.
“There’s part of me that cares because UFC 200 is going to be a big deal,” Punk said. “I’ve spoken to Dana about it, trying to figure out what’s best for both parties. It’s just a smarter business decision.”
Punk, who had an acrimonious departure from WWE early last year, is open to fighting Gall before July. Pushing 40, Punk would be among the oldest fighters to make his UFC debut and the window for a meaty UFC career grows shorter with each empty month. Ron Van Clief was 51 when he fought on the fourth UFC card. Win or lose, Punk said he was in UFC for the long haul.
“I didn’t move up to Milwaukee, I’m not training my ass off and getting hurt, going back into the gym just so I can one-and-done it,” Punk said. “This is what I do now.”
Punk, a noted Chicago Blackhawks fan who has a Stanley Cup tattooed on his left Achilles, heads to New Jersey next week to work with the New Jersey Devils strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz. Punk will attend the two-day training sessions with former UFC champion Forrest Griffin and three other fighters. Punk also will attend the Ottawa Senators-Devils game Thursday night at the Prudential Center.
Punk’s UFC debut might actually come in a videogame — he’s a character in “EA Sports UFC 2,” set for a March 15 release. Punk, who enjoys needling fans on Twitter, tweeted this week, “Hey! This is cool. I hope it makes dummies furious.”
Punk has brushed off criticism that he’s in UFC as some sort of publicity stunt or that he’s not a “real” fighter because of his stint in WWE.
“If they didn’t care, then none of it would probably matter,” Punk said. “That’s probably my biggest weapon, I don’t lack confidence.”