Former WWE superstar CM Punk signs with Dana White’s UFC

It was announced Saturday night during the UFC 181 pay-per-view that the company signed former WWE superstar CM Punk, real name Phil Brooks.

“My professional wrestling days are over,” Punk said in a release. “It’s awesome to be here. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

During the preliminary card at UFC 181, Punk joined UFC announcer Joe Rogan on commentary and revealed he had signed a deal with UFC.

In the release, Punk also said: “I have a background in kempo, and I’ve been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a long time. This is my new career, 100-percent. I'm going to go full steam ahead, all systems go after today, and it's going to be fun. I have nothing but respect for everybody here at the UFC, everybody who steps in the Octagon to fight. And when it's all said and done, when I'm finished, everybody's going to have to respect me because I have come here to fight.”

Punk has been training the past few years, when health and time permitted, in Los Angeles with Rener Gracie, a well respected fourth-degree black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, head instructor at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy and co-creator of Gracie University.

Gracie, who is married to former WWE diva Eve Torres, recently told “[Punk’s] showing up for two weeks at a time, training exclusively with me, 100 percent, then he’s out. Then he comes back six months later. So, there’s not been enough consistency to concern ourselves with belts. But man, he’s remarkable. He’s in the top tier of students that I’ve ever worked with as far as his retention ability goes — his athleticism and his ability to train for long periods of time, because he’s very resilient and very athletic. I don’t know what he wants to do with it, where he wants to take it. I just enjoy the process and having students as dedicated as him.”

Punk, 36, left WWE in January -- before his contract expired -- over disputes with upper management about his health and character development and marketing and payouts among other things. He spoke openly for the first time about his departure last week on his friend Colt Cabana’s podcast “The art of WRESTLING,” which created a huge Internet buzz.

Punk said he’ll likely be competing at middleweight or welterweight in UFC. White said Punk will start at the bottom, most likely against another fighter with an 0-0 record. WWE superstars Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley made successful transitions to the MMA world, but both were younger and also feature extensive amateur wrestling backgrounds. Punk does not.

On Twitter, UFC wrote that Punk is expected to make his Octagon debut in 2015.

Punk added: “I felt like it was now or never. I have a limited window most fighters don’t have. I’m either here to win or get my ass kicked.”

No word yet if Punk will be discussing his decision to venture into MMA on Colt Cabana’s podcast next week.

Punk is married to WWE diva AJ Lee.