The immediate response from UFC-backers on social media upon the news that pro wrestler CM Punk was joining Dana White's organization of tried and true fighting was mostly dismissive.
"Why would this fake fighter, with zero MMA credentials, get a multi-year deal from UFC?"
It's highly unlikely that Punk will pull a Brock Lesnar and become a UFC champion. He just doesn't have the built-in skill that most MMA fighters have at that level. Yes, he's a great athlete (though, for the record - his elbow smash is trash compared to that of the late Randy Savage's), but UFC has chewed up and spit out many "great athletes" over the years.
So what is this Punk/UFC marriage really about? Ratings and PPV buys of course.
The UFC is no longer riding that tidal wave of popularity it enjoyed in the mid-2000s. Similarly, professional wrestling hasn't been "hot" since the early 2000s. Both WWE and UFC are trying to do something about the relatively low interest through innovation. Vince McMahon is trying to beat the world in the TV al a carte department with his WWE Network. White and the UFC are using more female fighters these days but White's grand plan could be somewhat shocking to people.
What if White and UFC create their own WWE? They certainly have the resources. We have seen countless MMA guys over the years try their hand at pro wrestling. Their presence has given pro wrestling a sense of "realism." Maybe we're at the point where UFC needs to get a little more "fake."
What's stopping White from setting up two different divisions within UFC? One could be the traditional UFC, with the Octagon, the real fighting - the whole bit, and the other could be the "sports entertainment" division, featuring guys that are good on the mic but not so good on the "real" mat. Punk's presence would give this division immediate respect considering he's easily the most controversial name in "sports entertainment" today.
There would obviously be "fighters" jumping from division to division all the time in this new format. And when a particular pro wrestling feud needs its "burn-off" match it could just "take things to the Octagon" to have a "real fight." It could work the other way too. When a certain traditional UFC performer doesn't "have it" in the Octagon anymore, he (or she) could immediately defect to the squared-circle.
White has often been compared to McMahon in the past. But in terms of innovation, if White were to pull of something like this, he'd not only make McMahon look like the out-of-touch old promoter Punk claims him to be, but he'd be revolutionizing not one, but two genres.