In the lengthy, candid interview, Punk talks about his cancelled walk out with Chael Sonnen at UFC on FOX 2 in Chicago this weekend, his thoughts on MMA fighters utilizing their charisma in fight promotion and whether or not he would ever be interested in an MMA fight.
Helwani, a pro wrestling fan himself, also touched on the Royal Rumble. In fact, Helwani came across as more comfortable talking about pro wrestling in an MMA environment than Punk himself.
On the topic of walking out with Sonnen, Punk sounded a little disappointed that he wouldn't get the chance to be a part of it:
It was something Chael and I discussed, yes, and the thing about my job is you don't get days off. And we have a show that, before the big pay-per-view Royal Rumble, and I somehow miraculously find myself off the show to get an extra day in Chicago and it seemed like planets kind of aligned. There happens to be a UFC show down the road from my house and it's something we talked about, yeah. I think it might have gotten leaked before, you know, all the chickens were hatched, but you know, so be it.
Punk goes on to tell Helwani that he was introduced to Sonnen through Gerald Brisco, and that a part of him not doing the walkout with Sonnen was that he didn't want to overshadow anyone, not wanting to bruise any egos.
Helwani asked Punk if MMA could learn something from professional wrestling, in regards to fighters promoting themselves and being entertaining:
Well that's the main thing, talk as much smack as you want, you gotta back it up. Will more guys do it? I don't know, certainly not as well as Chael. He's very dynamic in that respect. But you know, I think guys like the Diaz brothers, anybody that says they put a black eye on the sport with their antics or their shenanigans, I think people really need to take a look at that because what it does is it highlights the sport as a whole and I don't think anybody is really doing anything to disparage the MMA community. I mean, that's what people talk about.
Punk came across as a true fan of MMA, and Helwani noted that Punk had a gi laid out to dry. Punk has been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and said there was no shortage of tough guys who try to test the champ.
Nearly 20 minutes into the interview, Helwani asked the million-dollar question: Does CM Punk ever think that, just once, he'd like to have an MMA fight? And after a deep breath, he gave his answer:
Yes. I don't think that's going to surprise anybody, and those that think that I don't belong in an octagon, I welcome that. I welcome anybody who tells me I can't do anything. It makes me want to do it more. I think that there's a lot of guys that our paths might have been a little different if the UFC was as prominent.
He notes that professional wrestling was a big option for wrestlers getting out of college or the Olympics, and that if the UFC was where it is today back in 1997, a guy like Kurt Angle would never have done pro wrestling.
I would love to give it a chance. I think the only thing that's, well obviously the only thing that's stopping me is I'm contracted talent for World Wrestling Entertainment. But also I'm no spring chicken, all these guys are so young, they're so athletic. I'm kind of like an older, broken down, baby deer. That's how graceful I am sometimes. I never try to say I'm an athlete or anything like that, what I have is heart. Normally when I have a desire to do something, I set my mind to it, I can do it. So who's to say, you gotta wait maybe two years and see what happens.
Punk notes that there have been some older MMA fighters before, and jokingly tells UFC president Dana White to not worry, he won't have to put up with another hot-headed professional wrestler. He believes there are a lot of boys in the locker room who would like to test themselves in an MMA fight. Daniel Bryan, anyone?
This interview with CM Punk was absolutely stunning. Punk is a bigger fan of MMA than some MMA fighters themselves, and comes across as very well-educated and level-headed. I was particularly impressed with his answer to ever wanting to have an MMA match. Professional wrestling is known for tough guys and egos, but the WWE champion wouldn't go that route, and instead gave a very humble, realistic answer.
If you're a fan of Punk's work, watch the interview in its entirety—it's a classic.