Sports

CM Punk trains for MMA, writes comic books, quotes Gandhi

"I am keeping up with everybody and that's a tough task with all those 'killers' in that [UFC] gym."

It’s been a little less than a year since CM Punk signed with the UFC. Since leaving the WWE, he has been training in Milwaukee in anticipation of his MMA debut in the near future. The Chicago native, whose real name is Phil Brooks, took time out of his training schedule to talk about his progress, writing for DC Comics and blocking Twitter haters. Oh, and he also quotes Gandhi.

You have been training in Milwaukee for almost six months. How do you think your development in the fight business is coming along, and when do you see yourself entering the octagon?

Well, I’m my own worst critic. I always want to be better than I am, and you can apply that to any aspect in my life. I want to be a better husband, better comic-book writer and better mixed martial artist. I am right where I need to be. I am keeping up with everybody, and that’s a tough task with all those “killers” in that gym.

You recently announced you will be writing for DC Comics. When will the first issue be released, and will we see more issues in the future?

Drax No. 1 is slated to be released late fall, early winter, whenever the seasons change here in Chicago. From when I first started writing, it’s definitely getting easier. Reading from scripts of comic books definitely helps, along with a great editor and an awesome co-writer, and they are all teaching me as I go.

You are one of the biggest celebrity Blackhawks fans. How was it for you to be in the United Center when they won the Stanley Cup and then the dreaded salary cap coming into play during the offseason?

I could tell you exactly where I was sitting when they won. I love the Hawks and always have. I was stoked when they won. Everyone asks me if they are a dynasty, and I don’t really care. Three cups in my lifetime is [bleeping] amazing.

The trades didn’t really surprise besides [Brandon] Saad, as I thought they were going to keep him. ... It’s like 2010, when we traded a bunch of players but the core is still there. If you build around [Jonathan] Toews, [Patrick] Kane, [Brent] Seabrook, [Duncan] Keith and [Corey] Crawford, everyone else will play up to their level.

You're also a huge Cubs fan. What do you think has been the biggest reason they are slowly becoming a good team?

The Cubs are a fun team to watch, huh? They steal bases, they sacrifice bunt, they pick off and they do all this on purpose. I think timing is everything in life, and Joe Maddon came at the perfect time. The Cubs have plenty of young players who are coming up and generally love to play baseball. They haven’t been affected by the big head and manager they have, and it’s just a bunch of dudes playing baseball.

You also designed a Wrigley Field chair for Cubs charities. Have they reached out for you to be involved in another project?

The Cubs reach out all the time. I work really closely with them, and it's enjoyable doing this for local charities. Next I am going to do something for Jon Lester’s foundation in August, and it’s going to be a “Hollywood Squares” type of thing. That’s all I really know right now.

Does it bother you when people ask, “Will you return to wrestling?”

Yes and no. It irks me a little bit because I think it’s the same people that are asking it. But at the same time you have to roll with the punches because it comes with the territory. It’s probably what I’m most known for, and there are fans out there that miss me in that venue. I am not one to draw in the past and I’m sailing on.

You are all over Twitter and try not to deal with negative people. Do you think more should follow your approach dealing with the “trolls” of that world?

I think people in my “position” always worry about what they have to say. A lot of things that I’ve said have come and bit me in the ass. I am who I am and I’m not trying to fabricate it. Twitter is like a window to my kitchen. If somebody doesn’t like the things I say and want to attack me on Twitter, I block them or "close the window." Then they go off and cry about it.

Again, I am who I am, and if you don’t like me, stop following me or I will do the honors of blocking you.

You mentioned a camera crew following you all the way up to your first fight. Has that been a distraction during training?

No, not at all. There is plenty of footage where Fox can string along four or five episodes leading up to my fight. And whatever happens, I think it’s going to be an inspiring show to watch on the journey I am taking.

Hulk Hogan has made headlines for some of his racist comments becoming public. Being a former wrestler, what was your reaction?

I don’t really have a comment on it. Like I said, though, stuff that you say can come back and bite you in the ass. Everybody gets what they deserve in the world. Hopefully he issued a sincere apology and we can all move on from it.

We all have said stupid things, and I don’t think you should judge somebody on what they said a long time ago. But some of the stuff is harsher than other things. It is what it is. 

Recently you received a text from WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan. How was that getting a vote of confidence from one of the people you grew up with through the ranks of pro wrestling?

I thought it was pretty cool. Everybody in WWE whether they admit it or not are big fans of the UFC. Like everything else, they are 10 years behind the curve on everything, but they are slowly warming up to MMA. Now it’s all Ronda Rousey. But a couple of years ago when I mentioned her they told me the sport was despicable. Everything they are doing now is something I told them five years ago. They live in a bubble. When you are on the road this much, you are “all in” and nothing else matters; I lived in a bubble.

They built this empire and they are the best at what they do. But they still have no [bleeping] idea what goes on outside their bubble.

Any final words for Chicago fans of yours, whether you’re an MMA fighter, wrestler, painter or comic-book writer?

I’ve done some cool things in my life. Hell, I can sit on my couch and get super fat, but that’s not who I am. I like growing mentally and physically as a person and a human being. I like to tackle things that may scare me and not being closed-minded. I think that could go towards anyone. If everyone was a little more caring, a little more loving, a little bit willing to help people up when they fall, I think the world would be in a better place. It may sound crazy to quote Gandhi, but it rings true. Be the change you want to see in the world, and I’m all about moving forward and making a better world for myself and my family.

Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor. @tedgruber

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