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Still on UFC roster, CM Punk taking commentary gig with CFFC very seriously

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

CM Punk is known for his work with a microphone. Next month, he’ll embark on a new path for his career and it’ll involve, to use wrestling parlance, putting others over.

The former WWE champion and UFC fighter will make his MMA commentary debut at Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) on Dec. 14 in Atlantic City, N.J. The event will air live on UFC Fight Pass. Punk told MMA Fighting that he doesn’t plan on being in and out of New Jersey quickly. He wants to do this new gig — and especially the fighters involved — justice.

“I’m gonna try to get out there as early as I can, so I can talk to as many people as I can,” Punk said in a phone interview. “I want to talk to fighters, their corners, their trainers, their managers, if they have them. Wives, girlfriends, fiancés, moms, dads — whatever. I really want to talk to the fighters and get to know them, so I’m not just talking about, Here’s another woman or another man punching each other. Of course, they want to be in the UFC. There’s stories behind the stories and I kind of want to get to it.”

CFFC has been a breeding ground for MMA in the Northeast, sending dozens of fighters to the UFC. Punk said he’s looking forward to being a color commentator and analyst working with prospects whose backgrounds might not be known yet to a wider audience.

“If you look at it on the level of the UFC, you’re always getting Countdown shows and more often than not, it’s frequently the same guy,” Punk said. “I’ll use Anthony Pettis as an example, because he’s a good friend and he’s a good teammate of mine, so nobody can say that I’m trying to trash talk Anthony Pettis. But there’s only so many Countdown shows you can do about Anthony Pettis. You know everything about the guy already.

“I think one part of my job will be to try to deliver that Countdown feel, when just speaking about this fighter. I may have 15 minutes to talk about him, I may have 30 seconds to talk about him, depending on how short or long the fight goes. But I think my motivation is to try and get across that these are human beings. We can argue whether it’s a sport or a business and I can give their perspective. I can talk for them.”

Punk, 40, fought at UFC 225 back in June, falling to Mike Jackson by unanimous decision. It was his second straight loss after signing with the UFC in 2014 after a long stint as a top star in WWE. Punk had no martial arts fighting experience before coming to the UFC and UFC president Dana White implied after UFC 225 that Punk’s time competing in the promotion was likely over.

However, it’s five months later now and Punk is still a member of the UFC roster. He’s still getting tested by USADA — “I still have to pee in cups,” he said — and could theoretically be called up for a fight by White at any time.

“He could also call me tomorrow and be like, ‘Hey you’re cut,’” Punk said.

Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, isn’t really sure what his future as an MMA fighter will be at this point. He said he figures if the UFC wanted to cut him, it would have happened by now, but then again he admits to being “a special case.” Either way, Punk said he’ll continue to train at Roufusport in Milwaukee with an eye toward potentially fighting again, wherever that might be.

He said he would like to get in the cage again, but this endeavor in broadcasting with CFFC is at the forefront of his mind currently.

“I do, I just don’t right now know how realistic that is, if you want to be honest about it,” Punk said. “[CFFC] was an opportunity that came around, just kind of like fighting did. A friend of mine calls me up and says, ‘Hey, you want to do this?’ The way I live my life — whether it’s right or wrong to some people — is, shit man, I don’t want to wake up tomorrow, let alone when I’m 85 and go, ‘Oh man, I didn’t do this and I should have.’ That’s kind of how I just operate.

“So, I’m still training, of course. I love it. I was just out in Vegas at the UFC Performance Institute. That place is amazing. I wish it was around when I was 20 years old, but that’s another story.”

Punk said he got a call about this job from his friend Dave Sholler, the former UFC public relations czar and current Philadelphia 76ers vice president of communications. Sholler is now a part owner of CFFC, along with Rob Haydak, and asked Punk if he’d be interested in commentary. Punk said after some “hemming and hawing,” he agreed. He has commentary and analyst experience in other mediums, like pro wrestling.

“I think there’s a lot of MMA commentators or analysts who have gone to school — broadcasting school — and I think they’re great at what they do,” Punk said. “And I think conversely, there’s a lot of guys who are just fight fans. I think I’ll kind of be a happy medium between the two. I’m not going to broadcasting school, so I’m not really broaching the subject in that respect. I’m working for Dave and it’s an easy fit because I’m fortunate enough to kind of pick and choose what I do. If Dave wasn’t a good guy and he offered me a commentary spot, I don’t think I would take it. I can work with people who I like and I love Dave.”

Punk, a longtime MMA fan, said when he watches broadcasts there are certain things that commentators do that he doesn’t like. He said he wonders why broadcasters spend time on certain topics and not others.

“I think I’m looking at it from the lens of certain things certain people do annoy me when they do commentary,” Punk said. “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just saying like me, I walk into an ice cream shop and there’s 68 flavors. Some guys are chowing down on avocado ice cream. Not my flavor. Some guys are eating churro ice cream and I’ll be like, ‘I’ll take two of those — one for me, one for my wife.’ I feel like I can lend a different perspective and add things that I think guys should be doing, should be talking about.”

And Punk feels like one of the main things commentators should be talking about is why these fighters are in the cage and how they got there, not just what they’re trying to do once in there.

“I think everybody has different reasons that they are fighting for,” he said. “They have a different reason that they want to fight. Sometimes those two things don’t correlate and I think I’d be doing a pretty good service to a lot of those young, up-and-coming fighters if I can do that and get to know it. And not just get across that OK this guy is trying to knock this guy out. There’s motivations behind a lot of fighters that don’t really get peeled back.”

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