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Former pro wrestler CM Punk (real name Phil Brooks) has been doing the MMA media rounds since this past weekend's shock announcement that he has signed with the UFC and is set to compete some time next year.

Fans, fighters and media members alike have been heatedly debating and discussing Punk's signing since the news broke and yesterday Brooks gave his response to some of the reactions he's been seeing and/or hearing.

"I'm more surprised at the volume of positive tweets and comments, especially from a lot of the fighters," Punk told FOX Sports. "I think that is very telling. It's very awesome.

"I'm very friendly with a lot of the fighters, so when Daniel Cormier tweets something positive about me that doesn't necessarily shock me. It makes me feel awesome. But somebody like Robbie Lawler... I've never met Robbie Lawler, I've been a fan of his for a very long time and for him to tweet me, 'Hey, people doubted me too. They're going to doubt you, just do your thing,' it means a lot to me."

The main criticism of Punk's signing by the UFC has been that he has no previous martial arts competition experience to speak of. Obviously he is a huge name and should bring a big cross-over audience to the sport of MMA, but is still probably not deserving of a spot in the sport's premier league with an 0-0 MMA record.

But Punk is honest and a realist, and doesn't necessarily disagree with the critics.

"I'm not really going to say that I do deserve it," he said. "I think time will tell whether I deserve it or not. I think respect has to be earned, not just given. I understand the perspective of a lot of the fighters. Some of them are just trying to jump on the bandwagon too - call names, pick fights. That's what they're supposed to do, that's the fight game and I appreciate that. So I just roll with the punches, I take all the positive stuff and leave all the negative stuff behind."

He added: "There's a big chance I fall flat on my face on this and, obviously, it'll be in front of the entire world but that's never stopped me from attempting anything. You're talking to a man who crapped himself on national television before. So I'm ready to be embarrassed if it comes to that."

Phil quit professional wrestling earlier this year, one of the driving factors behind his decision being that he felt he was being mistreated by the organisation he wrestled under, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). 

Speaking on how his experience has been working with the UFC thus far, Punk seems much happier on his new career path.

"So far, I've been treated the way I feel I should be treated here in the UFC. I know it's still early, and I know I'm probably being afforded things that maybe other people wouldn't be because of my name value or who I am or whatnot. I have zero complaints, I don't foresee any complaining coming."

His friend and supporter Daniel Cormier is set to challenge UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones for his title at UFC 182 on January 3rd in the most highly-anticipated grudge match in recent memory. Although he joked that he might not be the most qualified individual to analyse the upcoming bout, Brooks still offered his prediction. 

"I'm excited, I will hopefully be there," said Punk. "That's an awesome fight. Jon Jones is a spectacular fighter, he's kind of spearheaded this new-school movement in MMA where he's just so well-rounded. He does different things and he's more evolved than a lot of people. I think it's going to be a challenge for DC but I think DC's going to be able to grind it out. 

"I think both guys are trying to finish each other, there's a lot of bad blood... but when it comes to wrestling I think DC has that edge. I think he'll be able to control where the fight goes and that's how he'll win."

While on the subject of fight predictions, Punk also gave his thoughts on this coming weekend's heavyweight contest between Stipe Miocic and former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 13: "I think, if I had to put money on it, my brain says 'Dos Santos' but my heart says 'Stipe'. I'm a fan of Stipe, I'd like to see him pull it out."

It's a packed weekend of MMA events ahead as we have two UFC cards, both with high stakes, and two World Series of Fighting titles on the line.

Read below for our picks of the fights on all three cards the hardcores won't want to miss.

TUF 20 Finale

K.J. Noons vs Daron Cruickshank

On a card which will see the first ever UFC female strawweight champion crowned, former Strikeforce lightweight title challenger K.J. Noons will face Daron Cruickshank in a battle to climb the UFC rankings.

Noons is coming off his most impressive performance for years - a KO win over tough veteran Sam Stout at the TUF: Nations Finale in April. If he has been able to maintain that impressive form over an eight-month break then look for him to enter the cage hungry against Cruickshank on December 12th.

The striking of Cruickshank looked sensational in back-to-back stoppage wins over Mike Rio and Erik Koch before Jorge Masvidal detailed his run. Having rebounded against Anthony Njokuani with a unanimous decision win in October, Daron will surely be looking to become only the second person to stop Noons inside the cage come Friday.



Rousimar Palhares vs Jon Fitch

Leg-lock submission assassin Rousimar Palhares will put his WSOF welterweight title on the line against fellow former UFC contender Jon Fitch this weekend in a contest that promises to be a must-watch for grappling fans.

Palhares looked to be embarking on a tear (quite literally) in the UFC's 170lb division but was cut from the promotion after holding onto a heel hook for too long against Mike Pierce, despite his opponent tapping. He won the WSOF 170lb title in his debut for the promotion in March, once again demonstrating his lethal leg-lock skills to get the win. Against Fitch he should find an opponent willing to enter the grappling realm against him.

Fitch is coming off two straight wins under the WSOF banner after losing his promotional debut to Josh Burkman. Over the course of his 34-fight career, Fitch has earned a reputation as a gruelling grappler who smothers his opponents and also boasts phenomenal submission defence. What makes his bout against Rousimar incredibly interesting is the question of whether or not he will be able to fend off the aggressive submission style of his opponent and win the grappling war.


UFC on FOX 13

Joe Riggs vs Ben Saunders

Joe Riggs will return to the UFC this weekend after an eight-year absence from the promotion. Having strung together six wins in-a-row and winning Bellator's Fight Master reality show, the 32-year-old will now take on another man who knows what it's like to fight your way back into the UFC in Ben Saunders. In a year that has seen many great resurgence stories, a win for Riggs in his UFC return would be a tremendous feel-good moment, especially as his original UFC return date was cancelled after an unfortunate accident with a firearm.

Saunders made his Octagon return in superb style back in August with the first ever omoplata submission win in UFC history, earning himself a 'Performance of the Night' bonus in the process. Having had a mixed run last time out in MMA's top promotion, he will no doubt be determined to put together an impressive streak this time around.

With both men looking to write an inspiring comeback story and end their year on a high, this could be a dark horse for 'Fight of the Night'.

Robbie Lawler wrote one of the greatest career resurgence stories in MMA history this past Saturday by defeating Johny Hendricks in a rematch at UFC 181 to capture the UFC welterweight title. The contest was close, but top contender Rory MacDonald believes the right man won.

"I scored it 3-2 Lawler," MacDonald told UFC.com. "What a good show, it was a great fight. Lawler really pushed it in the fifth round and I think that's what got him the win."

With the score now standing at 1-1 between Hendricks and Lawler, and with both fights being so closely contested, there has been talk of a potential rubber match being next. But, prior to the UFC 181 main event result, it was MacDonald who had been promised the next shot at the winner of the 170lb championship bout and the Canadian is positive the UFC will keep their word.

"I would think so," Rory said when asked if he thinks he will be Robbie's next opponent. "I mean, how many times would do you want these guys to fight in a row, right? I don't know, I think it's a better match-up and I think the fans will respond."

Riding a three-fight winning streak, including two post-fight bonuses and a TKO win over Tarec Saffiedine in his most recent outing, MacDonald is riding high in both confidence and the official UFC rankings. As a result, he is sure he can not only even the score with the current champ after losing to him via split-decision last November, but do so by finishing him.

"I'm going for the stoppage and I'm going to come away with the belt."

Croatian MMA veteran and legend of the Japanese Pride FC promotion Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic has one of the most storied careers in the sport. Unsurprisingly, he has many interesting and amusing stories of his own.

In the Pride Icon issue of Fighters Only magazine (available now) the former Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix champion speaks exclusively to Fighters Only, looking back on some of his most legendary moments in the now-defunct Asian MMA organisation and shares some fascinating tales.

Read below for small taste of what to expect inside the current edition of FO.

Another famous story has Cro Cop arriving at the Saitama Super Arena one night to discover that the audience is twice the size he was told it would be, at which point he supposedly demanded his purse be doubled to $300,000 or he wouldn’t fight.

“This story came from a lawyer in Japan I used to use but it was bulls**t. He sold stories to a Japanese newspaper and most of it was made up. In reality, if I arrived at the arena and tried to pull a stunt like that, I would have had to learn how to swim in Tokyo Bay with concrete boots on my feet,” he laughs.

“What actually happened was at first I was promised $130,000 and I said I wanted $150,000 because it was a main event fight. They said no. This was about twelve weeks out. Then about eight weeks out I had some bad back pain and my physiotherapist said I should rest for a week or two, to rest it.

“I sent them a copy of his advice and told them I could not take part in the fight. I faxed the written statement of my doctor to them. They called me up and started laughing. They said, 'Okay, okay, we will give you $150,000”.

“And I said 'No, I don’t think you understand. I am in pain. So now the price is $300,000.' They said, 'Oh no, no, we cannot,' and I said, 'Okay guys, well you have more than enough time to find a replacement for me, good luck.'

“They kept calling me, then they sent me the plane tickets to fly to Tokyo. I said, 'Why have you sent me this? I am not coming.' Then they said 'Okay, we will pay you $300,000.'”

For the full interview with Mirko 'Cro Cop', get the Pride Icon issue of Fighters Only magazine - on sale now!

A possible return to mixed martial arts for Gina Carano is looking increasingly unlikely as she has now been confirmed as a cast member for the upcoming Kickboxer movie remake. The film is expected to be released some time next year.

The movie will also star Guardians of the Galaxy actor Dave Bautista and the star of the original Kickboxer film, Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was announced in May that another former fighter in Georges St-Pierre will also feature in the film.

“It will be fun to watch Gina as the sneaky and dangerous temptress, a boa constrictor of this fighting jungle,” said Radar Films CEO Ted Field. “Watch out kickboxers!”  

Gina Carano was in talks with UFC bosses earlier this year regarding a potential return to fighting and, for a short time, things looked promising. It even looked as though she would be granted an immediate title shot against reigning women's bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey. However, talks look to have all but come to a halt with this latest acting announcement.

Gina Carano has not competed in mixed martial arts since her August 2009 loss to Cris 'Cyborg' Justino. Her movie credits include Haywire, In the Blood and Fast & Furious 6.

The Monday following his UFC 181 TKO loss to top-five UFC heavyweight Travis Browne on Saturday December 6th, Brendan Schaub sat down for a special live edition of his The Fighter and the Kid podcast with co-host Bryan Callen and UFC commentator Joe Rogan.

What followed was an unflinchingly honest and frank assessment from Rogan on Schaub's performance and his general skill and prospects as an MMA competitor.

Watch the full video below.

UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub suffered the fourth stoppage loss of his UFC career this past weekend at UFC 181 at the hands of Travis Browne. Calling the action was long-time UFC commentator and friend of Schaub, Joe Rogan.

Yesterday, in a special live podcast with Brendan and his The Fighter and the Kid podcast co-host Bryan Callen, Joe was calm and rational in his assessment of Schaub's performance, but also brutally honest.

"As I'm watching that fight there's a lot of things that concern me," Rogan told Schaub. "You were lunging with your punches instead of getting there with your footwork and then launching things from the proper distance. You were reaching and loading up, you looked very stiff, you didn't look fluid. It didn't look good, it's didn't look like you were well-prepared. Your movement just didn't look like an elite fighter's movement."

Of course, the TUF 10 finalist's loss shouldn't be attributed entirely to his own performance as his #3-ranked opponent brings many dangerous tools to the table which would be enough to give any top heavyweight contender cause for concern. Rogan was understanding of this.

"He moves better than any of the other heavyweights too," Joe said of Browne. "He's got that Dominick Cruz, TJ Dillashaw s**t he can do, which is so rare for a six-foot-seven guy to be able to move like that. Usually you see lighter guys that can move like that."

But for everything Travis did right against Schaub on December 6th, Joe also spoke frankly about his friend's own shortcomings in the martial arts skill department.

"The reality of your skill-set and where you're at now, I don't see you beating the elite guys," Rogan said. "I don't see you beating Cain Velasquez, I don't see you beating Junior dos Santos, I don't see you beating Fabricio Werdum.

"You came into fighting fairly late in life. You're a good athlete, you're a strong guy, you're a big guy and you can do a lot of things because of that. You're very dedicated and you're very disciplined and you get s**t done. But there's a reality of fluidity, of movement, of mechanical efficiency of movement that happens when you get a guy who's trained his whole life at a certain aspect of MMA; whether it's wrestling, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu... there's a fluidity to their movement that you don't really have. It's not that you don't try hard, it's not that you're not dedicated, it's not that you're not disciplined, it's not that you're not intelligent. There's s**t that other people can do that you can't do."

As well as being an active UFC heavyweight competitor, Brendan is also the co-host of a very popular podcast and regularly appears as a pundit on other UFC programming. His athletic gifts aside, he is also a funny, good-looking and well-spoken individual with career opportunities outside the cage.

This spells positive things for Brendan's future, but Rogan worries these other ventures could be detrimental to Schaub's fighting career in the present.

"This is the reality of it: I worry about your commitment to fighting and I worry about where you stand... not your commitment to training, not your commitment to give it your all. I think you have one foot out the door."

"I disagree," Schaub interjected.

Rogan continued: "You disagree? I think you're looking at where the future is going to take you and that you can't do this forever. I think that's a very dangerous place to be in fighting. I've seen it with a lot of guys. Early in their career they're invulnerable, they're beasts, they're monsters, they're 100 percent focused. Fighting becomes their life, it becomes their everything, and then somewhere along the line they start thinking, 'How long can I do this? When's the out-time? What's my exit strategy?'"

It became clear over the course of his speech that Rogan's main reason for voicing his feelings was his concern for the physical well-being of Schaub, specifically the health of his brain.

"You're a smart dude, and the problem with smart dudes is smart dudes think about variables. You think about the future; you also think about brain damage, you think about concussions, you think about how many you've already had, how many you've got coming up, how much damage you're taking in training."

Himself a former taekwondo and kickboxing fighter, Joe is no stranger to taking shots to the head from high-level fighters in competition and in training. He offered his own experience as an example (and warning) to his friend. 

"I understand this from a very minor place," he explained. "It was very hard for me to stop fighting, but I stopped fighting when I was 21, and one of the reasons why I stopped fighting when I was 21 was because I was starting to get headaches, man. I was starting to get headaches and I know I did some damage to my head; I know I did.

"I did a lot of sparring when I transitioned from taekwondo to kickboxing with guys who were way better boxers than me, and I got my f***ing bell rang a lot. And I don't know what it did to me. But I knew back then, when I was 21, I was like, 'I can't keep doing this. This is going to end bad.' I'd be lying in bed, I'd have headaches, and I'd say to myself, 'There's going to come a time where it's too late, where I wish I stopped but it's too late. And I don't want that to be the case.'"

Despite Rogan's words, Schaub stated that he will "100 percent" fight again. Whether or not he will reconsider his approach to and decisions regarding his fighting career moving forward remains to be seen.

The full podcast is due to be released December 9th on The Fighter and the Kid's podcast network.

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