Donald Cerrone thinks CM Punk signing with the UFC could be a good thing. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
When it comes to the UFC’s signing of former WWE star Phil "CM Punk" Brooks, opinions of fighters, fans and the media have varied from the highest of praise to the most frowned-upon decision since James Toney opted to step into the cage with Randy Couture at UFC 118 for an ill-advised showdown between professional boxer and mixed martial artist.
As for the fighters themselves, reactions have been rather inconsistent but tend to lean toward the negative. Jon Jones recently suggested that he hoped the UFC gave him a “real” opponent so “we can watch him get knocked out,” while Nick Diaz eloquently stated, ”F--k him, f--k the whole situation.”
But when it comes to Donald Cerrone, who is preparing to face Myles Jury at UFC 182 this weekend, “Cowboy” has absolutely no issues with the signing whatsoever. To be completely frank, an older and more mature Cerrone understands the business of signing CM Punk as it pertains to the sometimes forgotten entertainment portion of mixed martial arts that sells pay-per-views and puts butts in seats.
“I don’t think he can do the moves that he does in the WWE but come on and bring that fan base over here,” Cerrone said during a luncheon with media earlier in the week. “The WWE sells out arenas every night. Why not bring that attention over here? Brock Lesnar coming over was huge and you saw that in the PPV numbers.”
While Cerrone is correct that Lesnar’s short stint in the UFC was great for business, it’s also to be noted that Lesnar brought with him an NCAA wrestling pedigree into the Octagon. CM Punk doesn’t have any other combat experience aside from what he did as a sports entertainer, but Cerrone says that we shouldn’t be so quick to count him out.
“Who is to say that he doesn’t have it in him?” Cerrone said with a shrug. “I don’t know. But I’ve heard he has good jiu-jitsu.”
Yes, there are certainly fighters who have been training their whole lives in hopes of getting a call to join the organization. But this isn’t necessarily about what happens when the cage door closes. What Cerrone says that Punk’s detractors must realize is that a big part of what will continue to push the UFC further into the mainstream is that fighting is only half of the battle. The other is being an entertainer both in and out of the cage.
“I’ve learned the UFC doesn’t pay me as a fighter: I’m paid as an entertainer and that’s part of the job,” Cerrone said.
When it comes to entertaining, “Cowboy” explains that finding ways to make people fans of his story is a big part of how MMA connects with new fans. And if there’s a way that the UFC can attract more eyeballs from people who are only going to buy their first pay-per-view because of CM Punk, Cerrone says that Dana White and company should definitely do it.
“The young fighters think they are just getting paid to fight. But what they need to realize is CM Punk has a huge following. The WWE fans are going to watch the fight, and the guys that say he doesn’t belong here will be watching to see what happens too and that’s good for the UFC either way.”