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CM Punk talks MMA commentary, fighting future, Logan Paul, reports of a new wrestling promotion, more

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

CM Punk is a busy guy and he’s adding another gig to his résumé next month.

The former WWE champion and current UFC fighter will be on the broadcast team for the Cage Fury Fighting Championships event Dec. 14 in Atlantic City, N.J. The card will air on UFC Fight Pass.

Ahead of his mixed martial arts commentary debut, Punk spoke with MMA Fighting about a host of topics, including how he wants to approach his work with CFFC, if fighting is still in his future, if he’d consider taking on Logan Paul, the potential of a new pro-wrestling promotion starting up next year and more.

Marc Raimondi: Commentary, was that something that just popped up out of the blue that you had never considered before? Or was that something that was always something of interest to you?

CM Punk: It was definitely an interest for me. I don’t think it was anything I actively pursued, you know? I’ve done half a dozen to a dozen pretty cool things commentary or analyst wise across a myriad of different things. Pro wrestling, obviously. I’ve been fortunate enough to be like a co-anchor on a Cubs World Series parade. I’ve done a Blackhawks parade. Ultimate Beastmaster season three, me and Tiki Barber were holding it down in the booth. So, being a fan of MMA, I think it’s just a natural progression. I think it’s something I can speak on. I might not be the most knowledgeable, but I can hold my own, I think.

MR: Is this something you want to pursue further? Or is this just another in the many things that you do?

CM: I think it’s both. 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. 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 in 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 [CFFC part owner and former UFC PR head] Dave [Sholler] 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.

MR: Do you think it’ll be kind of a cool experience? You go to Jersey for CFFC, you get to see the sport from a different angle, talk to some of the guys, younger guys and girls coming up.

CM: Absolutely. I think I’m looking at it from the lens of certain things certain people do annoy me when they do commentary. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just saying like me, you 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 it’s not even really about other commentators. I feel like I already mentioned there are other people who do the same thing and it’s not about them. I’m just trying to offer a comparison. There’s times I’ll watch things and I’ll be like, ‘Why are they talking about this? Why are they spending so much time talking about this?’

We actually just worked on the travel [last week]. I’m gonna try to get out there as early as I can, so I can talk to as many people as I can. 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 in the face. Of course, they want to be in the UFC. There’s stories behind the stories and I kind of want to get to it.

MR: That’s actually what I wanted to ask you. Because you have that experience in a medium where storytelling is very important, MMA fighters have their own stories — all of them do. Is that maybe an outlet for you to kind of tell these stories?

CM: For sure. I think everybody has a different reasons that they are fighting. 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 motivation behind a lot of fighters that don’t really get peeled back.

MR: Especially at that level in the UFC where we kind of already know who these people are, we’ve seen them many times. On the CFFC level, these are prospects. CM Punk talking about them could elevate them.

CM: Absolutely. 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. 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.

MR: Does this foray into commentary in MMA transfer your focus in the sport? Or is fighting still up there? Are you still training? Do you still want to be a part of the sport in that aspect, as well as commentary?

CM: I do, I just don’t right now know how realistic that is, if you want to be honest about it. This 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.

MR: Are you still a member of the UFC roster technically?

CM: Yeah, I am.

MR: You’re still in the USADA pool?

CM: Yes. Unfortunately, yeah. I still have to pee in cups. Huge fan of wasting my time peeing in a cup.

MR: So Dana White could theoretically call you tomorrow and say, ‘Hey, do you want to go fight in January or February?’ And that would still be open, because you’re still in the pool.

CM: Yeah. He could also call me tomorrow and be like, ‘Hey, you’re cut.’ And I’ll be like, ‘Oh, great.’

MR: You’d figure that would have happened already, though, right? I mean, what’s the point of keeping you in the pool if that wasn’t going to be the endgame?

CM: Yeah, I agree. But I’m a special case. I don’t know. I’m different than most people.

MR: Have you looked back at the fight with Mike Jackson from Chicago at all? I know you were confident going into that fight and obviously didn’t go the way you wanted it to go. But have you been able to look back and kind of see, ‘Maybe I should have done this better?’ that kind of thing.

CM: Yeah, I have. The reason I don’t like talking about it is I feel like people always offer up excuses and I feel like talking about anything that was going on in my life leading up to that fight would come off as an excuse. So I’d rather just leave it at, Mike was a better man that night. I for sure had problems, but it’s nothing I’d want to vocalize to diminish his win. That’s not what I’m about. That fight was, so to speak, it was yesterday. I see sometimes fighters will complain about things after they fight and it’s just about getting back in the gym and just kind of focusing on the next one. As I said before, hats off to Mike Jackson.

MR: Right after that fight, Dana was very vocal about Mike Jackson. He was very angry — visibly angry. He felt that some of the things Jackson was doing was showboating and some things he was doing were unnecessary. Did you feel the way Dana did or were you not upset about that aspect of the fight?

CM: No, I don’t even know what Dana was specifically talking about. I just know that there was a lot of things that I should have been doing in the fight. But the fact that I survived the three rounds, I lasted. We’re approaching territory of stuff that people will possibly criticize or make fun of me. But at the end of the day, I’m super stoked I did it. I went three rounds and he probably should have finished me. But I don’t think it’s a matter of he didn’t, it’s a matter of he couldn’t. So, I’m not sure on the specifics of what Dana was actually made about. I’m just mad I lost myself.

MR: A few more things. Ben Askren, your pal up at Roufusport and sometimes wrestling coach, I guess. Are you helping him with his promos? Because that man is on fire.

CM: No, Ben is his own guy. I don’t think necessarily anybody helps him with his promos. Ben is Ben. And you’ve gotta respect the fact that whatever he says, if you like it, awesome. If it annoys you, probably even better, because Ben can always back it up. His record proves that. You’d be hard pressed, I think, to ask true fight fans the last time they were this excited about a guy going into the UFC. This is something that probably should have happened a while before, certainly before I got in the UFC.

So, I’m excited to see what happens. I was kind of shocked to see he’s going to fight [Robbie] Lawler right away. That just seems to be a tough fight in my opinion, but all the more entertaining. I kind of don’t know what’s gonna happen.

MR: I feel like it’s really respectable for Ben, because he kind of did it on his own terms. He never kowtowed and was the same guy the whole way, until the UFC made the move to bring him in.

CM: There’s something to be said for that. In 2018, where everybody is full of hot takes and knee-jerk reactions and this guy is this and this guy sucks because he’s not in the UFC and he’s fought nobodies and blah blah blah. There’s something to be said and I can completely relate with Ben about this and that’s doing things your own way. You shouldn’t be influenced by any outside force, especially not on the f*cking internet. People are allowed to give their opinion and say what they want — you don’t have to listen to it. And if you stay true to yourself — and Ben has — the guys that are good always find a way. The cream always rises.

MR: Tyron Woodley has been one of your biggest public supporters. He got asked a lot before his last fight about you fighting Logan Paul and he kept saying CM Punk would beat Logan Paul. You’re not fighting Logan Paul, right?

CM: I’m not fighting Logan Paul. I think this is one of the avenues where people will be like, ‘I don’t even know who Logan Paul is.’ Logan Paul is apparently a popular guy, but it’s not in any kind of avenue that I drive my car on. The only thing I know about him is he’s the guy who filmed the dead body in the Japanese suicide forest, which is don’t get me started on that, because I’ll say a bunch of stuff and then I’m sure somebody will make a YouTube video about it.

My entire life, before I ever got into MMA, for some reason I’m like this magnet. I don’t know what the deal is. Maybe it’s because, like Ben Askren, I just live unapologetically, I’m like honest to a fault and I’m just myself and I don’t really care. When you fight somebody, when you enter into a fight camp, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about that person. Maybe some guys don’t, maybe some guys focus on themselves. But you still have this person in front of you. And I’m not into sharing that much of my time and my headspace and my life with somebody that did something that I feel is so reprehensibly disrespectful to the people of Japan, who I love. They’ll always have a special place in my heart. So, no. I’m not fighting him. I have no interest to.

MR: One last thing, I know you have a relationship with some of the guys that were in Bullet Club — Cody, the Young Bucks, those guys. It seems like there are rumors — and possibly more than rumors — that they’re starting their own promotion, their own pro-wrestling promotion. What are your thoughts on them possibly doing that and would you have any interest in possibly joining them?

CM: I think at this point that whatever those guys decide to do will be great for them and their families. If I was asked what I would do or what I would say to them — because they could obviously go to WWE whenever they want — it’s just a matter of is this what’s best for your family? And I think we live in a time now where WWE is not the end-all, be-all. I don’t think it has been for quite some time. I think the stigma that it is is still there and probably will persist for many, many years. But enough people have been there and left that can, I guess, extoll the knowledge of, ‘Hey, you know what, the place ain’t all that.’

And I’m in a spot now where I’ve been gone what, five years? Maybe the place has changed. I’ve got people who text me and say otherwise, but there’s ways to make money and support your family outside of that. With also being able to satisfy the side of your brain that’s creative, the side of your brain that loves professional wrestling, the reason you bought a pair of boots in the first place. And I think those guys can definitely do that. I think they can command their price if they want there. But if they did go there, then they’d just be another guy — just like everybody else on that show. It’s amazing, the more time the show gets, the less time it really seems they develop new characters.

If you want to bring this thing back full circle, this is exactly what I’m talking about with CFFC. I’m talking about not just, oh here’s two fighters. Here’s two human beings and they have a family and friends and you can examine all those things without just sticking them out there and trying to sell something that the wrestlers in the ring, that the fighters aren’t trying to sell.

If those guys all go and start their own thing, more power to them. Let me bring it full circle again, I’m not actively pursing really much of anything. I’m just kind of floating. And it’s a nice thing to be able to do and just kind of float and hang out and if somebody wants to pick up the phone like Dave Sholler did and call me up and say, ‘Hey, we really think you’d be good at this and we want you to be a part of your company,’ they can call me up and make an offer. That has remained to be seen. Pro wrestling is not on my radar.

MR: But if Cody or Matt or Nick Jackson or one of those guys who you know were to reach out, you would listen?

CM: I would always listen. I would listen to them, because just like Dave, I like the Young Bucks. I text with Matt on and off. But business is business. I know Cody was out there in the media saying that an offer was made [for the All In event Sept. 1]. An offer was not made. Calling me up or texting me saying, ‘Hey, if you want to come to the show and do something, we would love that’ is not an offer. That’s not an offer.

There’s other things. There’s a couple more loose ends that I’m still trying to tie up to fully absolve me from the world of pro wrestling. I feel like I’ve still been attached to it since the day that I left it and that’s mostly because of fugazi lawyers and such. But we’re wrapping all that up and that’ll come to an end. And once I’m truly free, we can explore the world and just float and hang out. And I can walk my dog and drink coffee and do commentary for Dave Sholler and continue to train at Roufusport. And do all kinds of stuff. I’ve earned it, I’ve paid my dues.