With all of the negative publicity surfacing for the UFC in the past week, the initial hype of Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks MMA debut has taken a backseat to other stories.

Punk is supposedly just plugging away at Milwaukee’s Roufusport camp, honing his striking techniques with UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis while evolving the Jiu-jitsu game acquired from the renowned Rener Gracie.

Headed into the dangerous waters of the UFC’s talented middleweight division, Punk is also lucky to be able to train his wrestling with former NCAA champion and U.S. Olympic team member Ben Askren, who also calls Roufusport home. Although ‘Funky’ was critical of Punk’s foray into MMA at first, he’s since changed his tune about it, telling MMA Junkie that Brooks does in fact take real fighting seriously:

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“When someone decides to come into the UFC and they don’t have a combat sports background, you’re kind of thinking, does he really understand what he’s getting into?” But I think he gets it. I think he’s taking it very seriously.”

The smothering ONE FC welterweight champion also touched on the quality of Punk’s first UFC opponent. While it was first thought that he would face off with an opponent with a record similar to his, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta recently said that it would be someone legitimate.

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Askren echoed that sentiment:

“Obviously, they’re not going to start him off against one of the higher-ranked guys, but they don’t do that to anybody. There will be someone good.”

And even if it is against someone good, Askren thinks that Punk will be able to hold his own:

“I don’t see why he can’t compete.”

Askren may know better than most how fast and far Brooks’ MMA journey is progressing, but even despite his prior submission grappling experience, it’s hard to believe that his skills are advancing fast enough to make him competitive with UFC-level fighters.

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It takes many hardened warriors years to make it to the UFC’s grand stage, and there’s still a lasting view that Punk has been gifted a spot on the roster solely because of his mainstream name recognition. Askren thinks he can compete, however. Do you?