For the most part, it's good to be CM Punk. Except when you take a look at his Twitter mentions.
The former WWE star has never set foot in the Octagon, yet he might be the pound-for-pound most criticized member of the UFC roster. Sometimes, he takes it in stride. And other times, well, not so much.
"You stomach it by not reading it," Punk said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. "That's what you do. Otherwise you'll just go f*cking insane. It's a cesspool of humanity."
Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, was a beloved WWE headliner, especially among "smart" fans -- the ones who allegedly understand the business of pro wrestling best. Punk rarely captured the imagination of the mainstream like The Rock or Hulk Hogan or even "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. But he was a hero to the diehards, a pro wrestler's pro wrestler.
The contrast now in MMA is quite jarring. Punk signed with the UFC in December 2014 with no significant experience in martial arts. The hardcore fans, many of whom apprehensive about MMA's kinship with pro wrestling, were outraged at best and offended at worst. They wanted to know why this "fake wrestler" was getting the chance at a spot in the UFC when so many others who have paid their dues on MMA's regional circuit had not.
The latest headline getting the critics up in arms was a shoulder injury sustained in August training at Roufusport in Milwaukee. Punk signed 10 months ago and is still not close to his UFC debut. His coach, Duke Roufus, has estimated another six to 10 months before he steps in the cage and any naming of an opponent is a long way off.
There is a theory being passed around that CM Punk will never actually fight. That theory doesn't make him too happy.
"I deal with enough sh*t," Punk said. "The last thing I need is some phony journalist being like, 'Oh he's fake injured. He's never gonna fight.' F*ck off, pal. Who told you it was OK to write a book? Who made you a journalist? I don't know why people are so concerned with what I'm doing. If you don't like the book somebody wrote, don't read it. If you don't like the TV show somebody is on, don't watch it. If you're mad that somebody is remaking Big Trouble in Little China, it's your favorite movie -- guess what? Don't watch the remake. Don't want to watch me fight? Don't watch me fight."
That's the thing, though. Punk, 36, knows that when he is ready to fight -- and that will be decided by Roufus -- that they will all watch. And he's right, of course. The UFC only signed him because of his popularity and pro-wrestling crossover appeal.
"It's nice," he said. "They want to see me fight. As much as they pretend, 'Oh this is terrible for the sport, we hate him, we're not gonna support it,' they're gonna watch it. They want to watch it. That's the funny thing about it."
If Punk had his way, the announcement of his transition to MMA would have waited. It was the UFC's choice to put it out there last year, before he had even started training.
"Some days I wish that," Punk said. "It also wasn't my call. I wasn't the one that called them, they called me. I suggested, 'Hey why don't we wait until I'm ready to fight?' And they were just like, 'Nah, f*ck it. We're gonna do it right now.' Alright.
"Some days are better than others mentally for me. I think, 'Man, it would have been better if we waited.' Other days, I don't think about it."
Another recent source of scorn was a movie Punk shot with his wife, fellow former WWE standout A.J. Brooks. Punk said he received a ton of criticism for that, too, with fans saying that he was shirking his training to do a film.
"A three-day shoot to get paid a ridiculous amount of money isn't gonna hurt my fight career," Punk said. "I've gotta pay the bills. I hate money, but it keeps the lights on."
And that's another reason why Punk thinks it's ridiculous people believe he won't fight. The UFC is going to be paying him well, but he'll never get a check from the promotion if he doesn't fight.
Punk said he could begin doing bag work as early as this week and he'll be back in Milwaukee at Roufusport before long. There is still no specific timetable for his debut, but it will certainly now be in 2016, rather than 2015 like originally planned. CM Punk seems to be fine with that, at least more so than the people saying his presence in the UFC is hurting the sport.
"They can say it's a PR stunt," Punk said. "They can say whatever. But I know I'm gonna get my day in the Octagon and I'm gonna have fun doing it. I just try to ignore all the silliness. Some days it gets to me, and I don't ignore it. And then I remember, oh yeah, that's why you do ignore it. Because I fed the trolls. Don't feed the trolls."