CM Punk has become public enemy No. 1 for diehard MMA fans and pro wrestling fans who are angry that he left sports entertainment for the UFC. For someone who is still months and months away from an Octagon debut, Punk gets an uneven amount of hate on social media -- and he's been vocal about it.
Ben Askren, CM Punk's Roufusport teammate and coach, knows all about Twitter trolls. He's been the focus of many of them since a tiff with UFC president Dana White seems to have gotten in the way of him signing with the UFC. Askren has a few theories as to why Punk has faced the venom of fans.
"Maybe jealousy," Askren told MMA Fighting. "I would guess that's a pretty good answer. He's been famous, he's made a lot of money, he's got a hot wife. There's a lot of things about him that people would probably be jealous of. I would guess that's it."
In fairness, Askren was one of the first people to throw shade at the UFC signing Punk, who is 36 years old and has no previous martial arts competition experience. Askren is the same guy who White told to get more experience before signing with the UFC in the World Series of Fighting. At the time, Askren was the undefeated Bellator welterweight champion and regarded as one of the top 170-pounders in the world.
"The point was never really directed at him," Askren said. "It was more Dana White, because at that point in time the reason he was trying to express to the fans why he didn't sign me, which was untrue, was that I didn't have enough experience. You tell a guy who's an Olympian and is 12-0 and ranked top-10 in the world in mixed martial arts he doesn't have enough experience to compete in the UFC and then you turn around and sign a guy who's never fought before, well you just contradicted yourself."
Askren thinks the fans' hate for Punk has been misplaced. If they want to be angry at anyone, he said, it should be the UFC.
"If I was him and I was in the same position, I'd do the same thing," Askren said.
There is a prevailing feeling out there among pundits that CM Punk will never actually take a fight in the UFC. Some have called it a publicity stunt that the UFC announced Punk's signing last December and he still does not seem very close to making his debut. A recent shoulder injury has also taken the former WWE headliner out of training.
Askren, the current ONE Championship welterweight champion, had a similar feeling when Punk first came to Roufusport earlier this year. The former Olympic wrestler has done a complete 180 on his view of Punk now, though.
"If he's not gonna fight, he fooled me," said Askren, who meets Luis Santos for the ONE title Nov. 13 in Singapore. "I've heard that and people have asked me that. He's in the gym all the time and he's training all the time, so that would sure be a lot of effort to put into a publicity stunt. You'd think if it was a publicity stunt he'd maybe show up once a week or once a month. For a while before he was injured, he was in there twice a day, every day."
Askren and Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, have been fast friends. Askren and his family were recent guests at Punk's home to watch a UFC event. Askren said there are just some people you click with immediately and Punk was one of those guys.
Punk, Askren said, is a hard worker. He has no insight as to when he might make his UFC debut or who his opponent will be. But, despite his initial misgivings, getting to know the man has changed his views about what Punk can do in MMA after a long, illustrious career as a pro wrestler.
"Success is a skill and the guy has been super successful in another field," Askren said. "So I don't think there's any reason why he can't be successful at this one."