Today's the day. Well, one of them, anyway.
Former WWE champ CM Punk moves on from a whirlwind six weeks that saw him finally tell his side of the split from Vince McMahon and the sports entertainment giant, sign with the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world in UFC and then do a month's worth of press covering both bombshells.
During that process, he announced that he'd be training for his first sanctioned MMA bout with the Roufusport camp out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During a Q & A ahead of this past weekend's UFC 182, he stated that that training would begin today.
SBNation site MMAMania.com has an interview of their own up with the founder and head of Roufusport, kickboxing champ Duke Roufus, about Punk's training and what he expects that experience to be like at his school.
The Wisconsin native mentions that his friendship with Punk preceded the decision to work together toward his UFC debut, and that both are well aware of the challenge they've signed up for.
The cool thing is I know Phil on a personal level and I know what type of person he is and I've known him a few years. He has a unique background, his mindset and who he is. I'm excited to work with him. Knowing the type of person he is, I think he is going to surprise some people.
I like the challenge and I'm up for it to help him achieve...Even me as a kid when I said I wanted to be a world champion, people thought I was crazy. ‘He'll never do that.' Well, four titles later, here I am. I'm a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and asserting yourself to your goals....is it going to be tough? Yeah, but I didn't get involved with this because I didn't think he could do it. I think he can. That is the thing, he is going to fight guys in the UFC at his level, too.
At Roufusport, Punk will be exposed to everyone from young students to champions in the UFC like lightweight king Anthony Pettis and other combat sports promotions like One FC Welterweight champ Ben Askren. His new coach will bring him along through the full range of competitiors, from Pettis, to Askren, to even himself.
He is going to get exposed working with the world-class guys, but he is also going to get exposed to newer guys, too. That is the key to what we have going on is you have some high-level guys working together and you can experiment a lot with newer guys and use them as quality sparring partners to get your confidence better.
We are going to take it step by step. What I don't want to do is put him in there too fast and ruin his confidence. Confidence is everything in the fight business and that is what I am going to do: build his confidence. I have a huge resource of great coaches, great teammates and great students. I have a lot of longtime students who know how to properly spar with people that will bring him along well. I'm going to do a lot of sparring, myself, with Phil, just because I have the experience of control. I've been in martial arts since I was four, I have such control that I can help him learn the sport and not get hurt at the same time.
Roufus isn't worried about complaints from members of his camp regarding Punk getting pushed to the front of the UFC signing line just because he's a draw. And that includes a guy like Askren, who has been vocal in his criticism of Dana White's decision process for adding guys to the roster - both before and after signing the Chicagoan.
Here is the thing: people have asked me about the banter on Twitter. I didn't see it, but I heard about it. The thing is with Ben, he is just stating the fact that ‘hey put me in the UFC too.' Phil gets it. Phil is the king of Twitter banter and things of that nature. That is what built his career in the WWE. So, no hard feelings on both sides, they are both happy to work with one another.
He is used to every man hating him. He is a black cat heel. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. You see a lot of guys in the UFC attacking him or guys are hoping for a fight. Let's face it, it's prize fighting and Phil brings crowds.
And that's the thing. For all of his confidence in Punk, his new coach is already managing expectations. He repeats the standard lines about the exposure being good for the sport and all the athletes who compete in it. He spins the pro wrestler's presence in his school as an opportunity for his other fighters to learn about marketing and self-promotion from Punk.
While both he and his newest student are committed to sacrificing and hard work to acheive their goal of success in the Octagon, Roufus isn't making claims about fighting top guys - or even fighting anyone on pay-per-view (PPV) any time soon. As he says in the quote above, he is going to fight "guys in the UFC at his level" (presumably meaning fighters with little professional experience and not 35 year old ex-pro wrestlers).
And when stating that he will corner the man he calls Phil in first UFC fight, he qualifies it by saying that he and his team will decide when Punk is ready for that, and that he expects it to be at least "six months to a year" away.
Click on over to MMA Mania for the full interview, which includes more insights into Roufus' thought process and training philosophy. And let us know in the comments below if any of this changes your opinion of Punk's move, or his prospects as a mixed martial artist in the the UFC.