A massive tidal wave of headlines and attention was set in motion last December when the former WWE superstar officially signed with the UFC, and the momentum hasn't slowed throughout 2015 as speculation as to when Punk would make his promotional debut continues to circulate.
While there has been no official date or event set, the Chicago native's engagement with the media in regard to his progress as a mixed martial artist has kept the fighting faithful on edge and excited to see what the fighter formerly known as Phil Brooks has to offer inside the Octagon.
The only detail that is for certain is that Punk has been working diligently with Duke Roufus and his Milwaukee-based squad that consists of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and current One FC welterweight champion Ben Askren at Roufusport in order to keep the process of progress rolling. He's putting the same work ethic that made him one of the biggest names in professional wrestling into developing the variety of skills it takes to make the grade at the highest level of MMA, and it's a commitment Punk has taken seriously by all accounts.
Yet, no matter how hard Punk works within the walls of the gym, the passionate MMA fans are not the only ones who want to see if the 36-year-old has what it takes to compete on the sport's biggest stage, as a host of fighters have put in their bids to act as the welcoming committee. Of this collective, the one who has drawn the most attention—including some Twitter brush back from Punk himself (via MMAJunkie)—is The Ultimate Fighter alum and SBG Ireland representative Cathal Pendred.
Punk and the Dublin-based welterweight have gone back and forth a time or two on social media, with Pendred saying he would make short work of the former WWE champion. And while Punk's actual skill set remains a mystery, one of his teammates recently let the cat out of the bag as to the type of heat he's been throwing inside the gym.
During a recent taping of the MMA Roasted podcast with Adam Hunter, Titan FC welterweight Belal Muhammad spoke on what it's like to spar with the former professional wrestler-turned-mixed martial artist. The undefeated prospect is slated to face Zane Kamaka at Titan FC 35 on Sept. 19 and was on the show to talk about his upcoming tilt.
When the conversation turned to Punk, Muhammad revealed a few key details:
Dude is a beast. Everybody is talking all this trash about him, like Cathal Pendred saying he wants to be his first fight, but I think CM Punk would whoop him within the first round. I guarantee it. He would knock him out. Dude is legit. People are always talking trash, but they are going to see. He's in the gym day in and day out doing like three practices a day.
While Muhammad's comments certainly signal Punk is getting closer to being fight-ready, the fighter has gone on public record and insisted he'll know he's ready when Roufus tells him he's ready. Punk made those terms clear during an interview with Bleacher Report back in July, when he shed additional light on the enjoyment he's taking from the process necessary to forge him into a UFC-ready mixed martial artist:
It is going to be a team decision, but I'm sure there will be a point where I will know that I'm ready. That is going to come with training every day and will happen because of the hard work I put in. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again...Duke is my Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke wanted to go f--k up Vader early on, and he was like, 'Nah...hold up on that. Take it easy.' Eventually, Yoda told him he had to go control his fear, and eventually Duke will let me know it's time to go.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.