Is CM Punk the next Brock Lesnar? Time will tell, but it's unlikely

Is CM Punk the next Brock Lesnar? Time will tell, but it's unlikely

LAS VEGAS – Phil Brooks has been around long enough to know that it probably didn't make too much sense for him to spend time on social media on Saturday.

Brooks, known as CM Punk during his days in the WWE, announced that he's signed a contract in the UFC and will make his professional mixed martial arts debut sometime in 2015.

The news was met with decidedly mixed reaction, as Brooks well knew would be the case.

"Oh, I'm staying the [expletive] off Twitter," Brooks said at a short news conference at Mandalay Bay following UFC 181 to formally announce his signing.

It's a bold move and there is hardly any guarantee that Brooks can pull it off. He's been training with Rener Gracie for several years and considers jiu-jitsu his base.

But this isn't about whether or not he's good enough to compete in the UFC. Bantamweight contender Urijah Faber, who submitted Francisco Rivera, understands as well as anyone that professional sports are a business.

CM Punk.
CM Punk.

And Faber said he'd never discourage anyone from chasing a dream.

"A lot of this fight game, and the fighters up here understand this, is so much mental," Faber said. "If this guy believes he can get in here and fight, and he's willing to put in some work, who's to tell him he's not the baddest man on the planet?

"I've had a lot of younger fighters who are on my team go out and gotten losses and have felt embarrassed. This is the most exposed you'll ever be in any sport. If you're willing to fight a one-on-one fight in front of millions of people, props to the guy for wanting to put his best foot forward."

Brooks handled himself superbly at the news conference and showed respect for the sport and the fighters in it. He's been training for a long time and thinking about fighting for several years.

After he split with the WWE, he negotiated a settlement that allowed him to take the job with the UFC. It almost began as a lark, when UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta first mentioned it, but Brooks thought about it repeatedly.

This isn't a joke or a bid for an easy paycheck. There are about 250,000 easier ways to make a check than to fight in the UFC, even if you're facing the worst guy on the roster. That guy, the lowest man on the UFC totem pole, is still one of the toughest guys in the world.

"I'm excited," said Brooks, who said he'd probably fight at 185 but wouldn't rule out trying 170. "I finally feel there is something I can put 100 percent of myself into and that I'll get 100 percent back. If I slack off, if I sit on the couch and eat Doritos and give 50 percent and only train three days a week, that will obviously show.

"That's not my plan. The plan is to go full tilt. I'll kick my own ass so I don't get my ass kicked when I step into the Octagon. It was a very easy decision, and I'm the kind of person who likes goals and challenges. I'm very excited to climb the mountain, so to speak."

There is nothing in Brooks' athletic pedigree that suggests he's earned this. He is not in the same situation as Brock Lesnar, the former WWE wrestler who signed with the UFC and went on to win its heavyweight championship.

Lesnar was the 1999 NCAA Division I runner-up and the 2000 NCAA Division I champion. He had legitimate chops as an athlete and deserved the opportunity.

Brooks, though, has no such background. And so many are blasting him and the UFC for creating a freak show.

But this is a business and the owners and the fighters are in it to make money. When Lesnar signed with the UFC, pay-per-view sales increased and interest in the sport was at an all-time high. Lesnar made a lot of money, and the UFC made a lot of money, but so did the other fighters. They benefitted from Lesnar's presence.

The same will be true of Brooks, who is a magician with the microphone and knows how to promote a fight better probably than anyone on the roster.

CM Punk had some not so nice things to say about World Wrestling Entertainment a few weeks ago. (Getty)
CM Punk had some not so nice things to say about World Wrestling Entertainment a few weeks ago. (Getty)

Some will say that the UFC is ruining the integrity of the sport, but that's a ridiculous notion. It's not like White plans to have him fight middleweight champion Chris Weidman any time soon, and Brooks won't be in the cage until he's fully developed.

It could be six months, or it could be more.

And if he helps to sell more pay-per-views, isn't that a good thing? Some hardcore fans of the sport – a lot of them, actually – do nothing but moan and complain. The complaint du jour now is that the cards are too watered down, that there's no more individuality, and that interest is waning.

Well, you can be certain that interest in seeing Brooks fight for the first time will be high. This brings a flair the UFC needs at this point.

Brooks is right to ignore the holier-than-thou losers on social media who only complain and try to tear down others.

He's reaching for the stars. Chances are against him, but it's better to chase for a dream and create some fun along the way, rather than to sit back and never try.

Brooks' presence isn't going to ruin the UFC. He's not going to steal a title fight or a big match from anyone.

All he's going to do is make a lot of people some money, and give a lot of other people a good night's entertainment.

That's what sports, after all, are all about.