When Phil “CM Punk” Brooks announced that he had signed with the UFC, one of the first to speak out against it was Ben Askren.
The former Olympian and NCAA wrestling champion was very outspoken when it came to Brooks leaving pro wrestling for MMA at 36 years of age.
Now that Askren has had the chance to work closely with Brooks under the Roufusport training roof, he has a new-found respect for him.
“I think he gets it,” said Askren, in a recent interview with MMAjunkie.com. “I think he’s taking it very seriously.”
Brooks has studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu under several Gracie fighters in the past, along with training in taekwondo, but his combat sports experience is limited to pro wrestling. He was a multi-time WWE champion and one of the more talked about wrestlers due to his abilities in both the ring and on the mic.
Askren, who competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics after winning two NCAA titles, is the current ONE Championship welterweight titleholder and a former Bellator champion.
“When someone decides to come into the UFC and they don’t have a combat sports background,” he said, “you’re kind of thinking, ‘Does he really understand what he’s getting into?'”
No opponent has been named for his debut inside the Octagon, but Askren feels Brooks will be ready for whoever they give him.
“I don’t see why he can’t compete,” he said. “They’re going going to start him off against one of the higher-ranked guys.”