The Ultimate Fighting Championship made the surprise announcement Saturday night that it has signed CM Punk, one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling in the last decade, to a multi-fight contract.
Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, will fight at either middleweight or welterweight starting in 2015.
Punk rose to fame in the WWE based on his transcendent interview skills and exciting matches. However, he butted heads with WWE executives behind the scenes in recent years and left the company acrimoniously earlier this year.
Last week on a podcast with fellow wrestler and friend Colt Cabana, Punk accused WWE of a variety of offenses, including firing him on his wedding day and misdiagnosing a severe staph infection.
The biggest box office attraction in the UFC's history was another converted pro wrestler, Brock Lesnar. However, the two situations are quite different. Lesnar was an NCAA Division I wrestling champion with enough athleticism to be offered a spot on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad despite not playing college football. Punk has trained in various martial arts disciplines for years and loves the sport, but he is by no means a high level amateur wrestler, striker or submission specialist. He is also five years older than when Lesnar made his UFC debut.
Punk's excursion into MMA likely will be more reminiscent of Dave Batista (Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy), who took an MMA fight and won after leaving the WWE. However, Batista's fight was not on the big stage of the UFC. Punk's MMA debut is likely to be a huge box office attraction but it remains to be seen what kind of staying power he will have in the sport. He will likely be matched with other inexperienced opponents early on.
Punk, for his part, insists that he is fully committed to MMA.
"This is my new career, 100%," Punk told Joe Rogan on the UFC 181 pay-per-view event. "I'm going to go full steam ahead all systems go after today."