After nearly two years of waiting, CM Punk is ready to make his mixed martial arts debut. The former WWE superstar is set to face Mickey Gall at UFC 203 on Sept. 10.
Punk left WWE in January 2014, and announced that he had signed with UFC in December of that year. He was expected to fight in 2015, but his debut was delayed due to shoulder surgery. It was thought that Punk and Gall might meet this summer, but Punk required back surgery that even further delayed the fight.
“The instant I got cleared, I got on the horn and nailed everything down,” CM Punk said on the June 23 edition of the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “I’m happy to have a date, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
UFC 203 will be highlighted by the first heavyweight title defense of Stipe Miocic, who’s set to face Alistair Overeem at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Miocic’s hometown. But many fans will tune in to see Punk, who is one of the biggest UFC signees in recent memory. He was one of WWE’s most popular wrestlers before he abruptly left the company, having held the company’s top title from November 2011 to January 2013, the longest such reign in three decades.
Gall, 24, made his UFC debut in February, submitting Mike Jackson in 45 seconds at UFC Fight Night 82. He’ll be a heavy favorite over the 37-year-old Punk, who’s never had a professional MMA fight.
“I think there’s a lot of suspect people out there with their opinions thinking that they are going to throw a can at me, and they really haven’t” Punk said. “Body weight, height, reach, everything, I think we’re almost identical. Experience goes to him. He’s fought in the Octagon and other places and I haven’t.”
Punk isn’t the first WWE superstar to make the transition to UFC, but unlike other wrestlers who made the move, he has no fighting background. Brock Lesnar, who returns to the Octagon at UFC 200 on July 9, was an amateur wrestling champion before he made his first leap from WWE to UFC in 2008.
When it first became clear in February that Punk would eventually face Gall, he was named a +230 underdog, via OddsShark. Gall was given -300 betting odds to win the fight, which will be fought at welterweight.
— UFC (@ufc) February 7, 2016
“I’m not super concerned about that," Punk said when asked about making weight. "I’m in great shape right now, and I’m hovering around like 190, so if I gotta cut to 170, I’ll be fine. I got the time.”
Punk has been training at Roufusport Academy in Milwaukee, where former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is based.