As noted earlier, WWE Champion CM Punk was interviewed by Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com in promotion of tonight's Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Discussion included; his year-long WWE title reign, The Rock and their feud, the similarities between wrestling and MMA, what excites him about MMA and much more. Here are some of the highlights:
On his year-long WWE title reign: "I think every day above ground is a good day. I'm alive. It's been a blur, I'm in a different city every day. So, it's been an exciting year. I think when I look back career-wise, yeah, this has probably been my best year. ... Yeah, I'm not really one to look back on stuff and go, 'Oh, that could have been better. I wish this was something more than it was.' I've just kind of always got my eyes forward. But, career-wise, yeah. I mean, you can't complain when you've been champion for over a year."
On wrestling The Rock for the first time at the Royal Rumble and if he's ready for the show: "Yeah, I think so. Obviously, everything else in my life takes a back seat to my job. To compete at this level, you have to be 100% dedicated. So, obviously a lot of eyes are on the product now because The Rock's back -- for a limited time or whatever. A lot of new eyes are on the product. So, to me, I'm wrestling like it's the first time everybody tuning is is seeing me. So, I've got to be my best, I've got to be better than he is. I don't think it's going to be an easy feat, but it's definitely doable."
On whether or not he thinks he's better than The Rock: "People ask that question a lot. The whole best-in-the-world thing -- I call myself the best in the world. I really think if I didn't think that, I wouldn't do this anymore. Anybody -- pro wrestling or fight-wise -- you can't step into the ring or cage with somebody and think 'Wow, this guys really better than me.' Because you've already lost.
"Obviously, my sport is a little different than MMA, but my objective is not only to be better than the guy I'm wrestling, but be better than everybody on the card. Steal the show, so to speak. Be the most entertaining thing, be the one thing that everybody talks about when they leave.
"So, he hasn't wrestled in a year. I wrestle four days a week. Whereas, I have my work cut out for me, so does he."
On whether he or The Rock in his prime is the better professional wrestler: "It's apples and oranges in my opinion. I think I take this more seriously than he does or ever has and that's not an insult. I'm just more of a purist, you know what I mean? I know different styles, I've wrestled all around the world and he's been a WWE guy.
"So, within that mold, within being a WWE guy, he's one of the greatest of all time. Absolutely. But, you take him out of his comfort zone...I'm not saying he knows less than I do. I'm trying to vocalize this the right way. I just think I'd be doing myself a disservice if I didn't think I was better than him."
On whether or not The Rock can bring the same passion to the wrestling business: "Regardless of who I'm in the ring with, I don't wrestle down or talk down. You know what I mean? I always force people to come up, whether it's Cena or whether it's Ryback or whatever. I'm never going to dumb my stuff down or wrestle a simpler style. You sink or you swim. You either get in the ring with me and you keep up or you don't.
"I think a lot of guys like that, I think John Cena is one of them. I haven't wrestled The Rock. But, I've been in the ring with him and we've done the promo thing and I like what we've done so far. You know, you read on Twitter and some fans think I 'won,' some fans think he 'won.'
"That's great, that's what people are talking about. But, the fact that I don't think it's a landslide either way kind of makes people question what really is going to happen on Sunday. Hopefully, they tune in and watch it."
On why he thinks MMA fans enjoy him but not the rest of the wrestling business: "I don't know, this is news to me. I still get it all the time. There's still the staunch MMA -- you can't even call them purists. Half of them started watching when UFC debuted on FOX. But they're know-it-alls and you can't like pro wrestling because it's fake. They'll never see the parallels between my business and MMA.
"They'll never realize that pro wrestling started just like MMA. It was the toughest guys and one of them got smart and said, 'Hey, instead of really beating the crap out of me, I'm just going to let you win. I'm going to get more money than you. That guy was probably like, OK, that's cool. You know? What's more valuable to you? The money or the prestige of being the 'toughest guy.'
"But, I don't know if it's OK to be a fan of me if you like MMA. There's still always going to be those people that -- what I do is I'm a fake ass wrestling. I don't know. But, for those that do like me, why it's OK? I have no idea."
On whether or not Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones being friendly could hurt the UFC's bottom line: "It might be. I mean, I think that fights that are more interesting than most, there's an issue. 'I hate this guy.' I think there might be a little bit of a disconnect with the larger audience if they see guys palling around -- unless they're best friend. 'No, we're in the same camp and the same weight division. I don't want to fight.' OK, now I want to see that fight.
"I want to see Cain Valesquez and Cormier. I want to see the best guys fight the best guys. I don't care whos friends; you're a fighter, it's your job, it is a business. Fight. But, it opens up all kinds of different scenarios with people dropping weight and going to different weight classes so they don't have to fight somebody.
"I think that the general public, the general population, they like it better when it's more of a GSP vs. Nick Diaz thing. 'Oh, those two hate each other.' The buzz about me and Rock is that we can't stand each other and I hate him because he's a part time wrestler and he's coming back.
"That's great. Whatever generates more business and more dollars in your pocket, that's a good thing. That's always what Chael has understood."
On what currently excites him in regards to MMA: "I mean, I'm looking forward to GSP-Nick Diaz. ... Can [Diaz] hang with him? Sure. Can he beat him? I don't know. I definitely think he can hang. I always think that GSP's problem is: when's the last time he's finished a guy? [Matt Serra in UFC 83] was a long time ago.I'm a Carlos Condit fan, that's why I'm looking forward to that pay-per-view, too."
The entire interview can be viewed below: