For someone making his simultaneous mixed martial arts and Ultimate Fighting Championship debut, nobody has ever received more media hype and attention than Phil Brooks did last Saturday. Known mostly by his pro wrestling stage name CM Punk, the Chicago native pulled in a reported half million dollars for lasting just two minutes and 14 seconds against Mickey Gall at UFC 203 (offshore sportsbooks) before submitting to a textbook rear-naked choke.
While Punk has been the subject of endless criticism and in some cases just flat-out hatred for being such a highly-promoted and paid newbie to the sport, head coach and trainer Duke Roufus said he understands everything that went into his match with Gall. Roufus told the Sherdog Radio Network that people just looked at Punk the character and not the hard-working, diligent student he is. A quick cash grab this wasn’t, according to the former K-1 veteran, but in reality, the former WWE star has benefitted everybody.
“Everyone has their own opinion,” Roufus said. “It’s like when a fight is a close decision, it’s an opinion and I respect it. Obviously the UFC knew there was an advantage to do this and they are well thought-out in everything they do. I watch their promotions and business practices and they are a very sharp company. They take all the steps they need to, to be successful.
“But (Punk) brought a lot of people to the event,” he continued. “People were walking up to me and recognizing me and would tell me that they are UFC fans now when they used to only be wrestling fans or that they are now fans of both. To me, that’s positive. I want people to get bigger paydays. I believe that a high tide raises all ships and I believe that the attention that CM Punk brought to this event is going to help our industry.”
Many people don’t understand the business angle of the fight game and tend to only see things through the Octagon’s chain-link fence and not what really goes on behind the scenes. In a sport that hinges on superstars, MMA only has a few and, according to the former kickboxing champion, what Punk did on Saturday will spawn young, unknown fighters into becoming superstars.
“I think this also helps the other project Dana (White) has, ‘Looking for a Fighter,’” he stated. “It’s a great show and they are plucking talent from it and that’s where Sage (Northcutt) came from and it can help create stars. Do we have enough stars in this sport? We don’t. We gotta help grow stars within our sport, within our industry and help promote them. One thing this event will prove to you is when the media machine that is the UFC gets behind you, they will build you.
“I told Stipe (Miocic) after the event that he needs to thank CM Punk for being on the card,” he added. “A lot of these champions have contracts where they get more money depending on the pay-per-view buys. The numbers aren’t out yet, I don’t think, but Punk brought a lot of attention to the event and it helped everybody.”
But the burning question people want to have an answer to is will Punk fight again?
“He’s got some stitches (around) his eye and he had some cauliflower ear that blew up during the fight so he has to get those healed up,” he elaborated. “I know he wants to get back on the mat and keep working. I had a plethora of promoters reach out to me but I’m not his manager. People have shown great interest in working with him.
“The game is faster, stronger, more explosive in the Octagon and that’s the lesson that I think he learned the most, is to train more and work harder,” he concluded. “I think we’re going to see him do some jiu jitsu tournaments to get some more competition rounds in as well… I think he’s going to (fight again).”