LOS ANGELES -- Bobby Lashley wants nothing more than for CM Punk to excel. He just knows all too well that there is a serious learning curve coming over from pro wrestling to MMA. And Lashley had the benefit of being a college wrestling champion before breaking into the sport.
Lashley, who was a WWE star and now performs for TNA Impact pro wrestling, also started MMA on small shows before getting the call from Strikeforce in 2010. CM Punk won't have that kind of slow burn. The former WWE headliner signed a deal with the UFC in December and will make his pro MMA debut in the Octagon.
"I wish he can have a fight before going in there," Lashley said at a recent Bellator MMA media day in Hollywood. "I wish they could send him out to some jungle somewhere and put him in a cage and fight a nobody and see what he does."
Lashley, who meets James Thompson at Bellator 138 on June 19 in St. Louis, has a major question about what phase of MMA CM Punk will use to bail himself out of jams. Lashley, a two-time NAIA wrestling champion who trained for the Olympics, has always had his wrestling to fall back on. Punk has trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for years, but has never competed.
"Everybody has to have their go-to," Lashley said. "I don't know what his go-to is gonna be. If the water is getting deep for me, I'm gonna take somebody down. For him, you can't just rely on your hands because there's so many people out there that are just phenomenal with their hands. I really don't know where he's gonna go. That's a tough one."
In Lashley's mind, it'll really depend on who the UFC gives CM Punk for his first fight. That still could be months or even a year away with Punk training hard at Roufusport in Milwaukee.
"I hope he does well," Lashley said. "I know he's at a good camp and I know the guys are saying he's training his ass off. That's a hard situation, because what do you do? You've got a guy that's 0-0. Are you gonna bring somebody else that's 0-0 into the UFC and give him that berth or are you gonna give him someone that's more experienced?"
Lashley, 38, and CM Punk were both WWE headliners are different times. Lashley starred in 2007 and 2008 before transitioning to MMA and then TNA in late 2008 and 2009, respectively. Lashley debuted in Strikeforce in 2010. In July, the Denver native signed with Bellator and has gone 2-0 for the promotion.
Punk, 36, had some crossover with Lashley in WWE, but didn't become a full-fledged draw until 2011. Last year, he retired from pro wrestling after a nasty dispute with WWE and announced in December that he would be coming over to the UFC despite no formal fighting experience.
The road will be a hard one for Punk, but Lashley is definitely rooting for him.
"I hope he does well and it's not even for the [pro] wrestling aspect," Lashley said. "He's going out there fighting and sticking his neck on the line, so I hope he does well."