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Roufus recaps CM Punk's 'scrimmage'

3/5/2015
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MMA Live Extra: CM Punk On Naysayers, UFC Debut

Phil Murphy speaks with Phil "CM Punk" Brooks about transitioning from the squared circle to the Octagon, Brock Lesnar and when he'd like to make his UFC debut.



It will never show up on his official record, but CM Punk essentially had his first amateur mixed martial arts bout this week.

Punk, birth name Phil Brooks, fought Craig Eckelberg in a "scrimmage" Monday at Roufusport Academy in Milwaukee. The former WWE star, who signed with the UFC in December despite no MMA experience, has been training in Wisconsin with Duke Roufus the last eight weeks.

A crowd of about 100 people saw the fight, according to Roufus, who wanted to create an atmosphere as close to a real fight as possible. Brooks and Eckelberg (4-0), a former NCAA Division III wrestler, fought three three-minute rounds. Roufus served as the referee.

"What we have is a controlled environment to simulate an amateur career for Punk," Roufus told ESPN.com. "We'll probably do another 'amateur' match in four to six weeks.

"We created a crowd scenario. All our students got a chance to watch him and were cheering him on. [UFC lightweight champion] Anthony Pettis was in Punk's corner. There was a lot of hooting and hollering. We tried to make a little Thunderdome the best we could.

Of course, obvious question: How did the 36-year-old Brooks look against a legitimate opponent?

"He did pretty good against a guy who is 4-0," Roufus said. "Did he win the match if we had scored it? No, he did not -- but that's cool with him. He likes the struggle. There are certain people who enjoy going into the fire and becoming a phoenix. Most people like to avoid that fire."

Brooks has stated he expects grappling to be his area of strength. He's trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Rener Gracie for several years.

Roufus, however, said Brooks showed natural ability on his feet on Monday -- mostly that he appeared comfortable, which is not always the case with a beginner.



"I was surprised with his natural aggression in striking," Roufus said. "That's an unknown thing about striking; it's that sometimes you can teach someone all the tools of the trade, but if they don't have a trigger finger and the ability to throw under fire, it just doesn't matter. I was looking for instincts, and he didn't cave under pressure.

"I was happy with his fitness level. He didn't gas out and he didn't panic. I've seen people in there with more training than him who panicked and freaked out."

That said, Roufus did not have an expected timetable for when Brooks might be ready to make his UFC debut.

The promotion has stated the same and said it's up to Brooks to let them know. The expectation is Brooks (0-0) will fight at middleweight.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has told ESPN.com that Brooks' future opponent is unknown but will be "competitive."

"You know what? I'm going to be honest and say, I'm not sure," said Roufus, when asked when Brooks would step in the Octagon. "My biggest thing is, I love our sport. I love combat sports. I don't want to make a mockery of this sport. Not saying that [Brooks] is, but I want to use time to our advantage.

"If it takes one year, six months or two years, whenever Punk gets in there, it's going to be at a high quality. Pay-per-view worthy.

"The one cool thing about Punk is he's not calling anyone out. He's just trying to do something special in his life. Am I promising he's going to be a contender or a champion? No, but there are a lot of different fighters in the UFC that represent different things to the organization. Guys like he and [WWE star and former UFC heavyweight champion] Brock Lesnar bring a lot of new fans to this sport."