Since the announcement at UFC 181 that Phil “CM Punk” Brooks would join the UFC roster, there was a mix of love and hate by both fans and fighters. Even before his signing, former UFC and Pride fighter Phil Baroni blasted the former WWE champion in social media, challenging him to a fight. Michael Bisping welcomed Brooks on Twitter by offering him the first match. Newly crowned welterweight champion Robbie Lawler welcomed Brooks to come make a home at American Top Team and train with him, taking the high road, welcoming Brooks. Cesar Gracie, coach and mentor to stars Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, and the Diaz brothers also invited the star to train at his facility.
When Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta make business moves like this, you need to have some faith in them. They did take the organization and made it into one of the most successful businesses today, worth approximately 1.65 billion dollars according to Forbes. The Brooks signing is very simple: ratings. This is not the first time the UFC has pulled this stunt.
In 2009, Kevin Ferguson, also known as “Kimbo Slice” gained internet fight from his street fights on youtube. Ferguson would then get picked up by the now defunct Elite XC, and ratings were high. At first, Dana White mocked this idea, saying Ferguson would never be a top competitor in the UFC. When Elite XC discontinued, White offered Ferguson a shot on season 10 of the Ultimate Fighter. Ferguson fought on episode three, losing to Roy Nelson. This episode was the highest rating that season at 5.3 million viewers, the second highest viewing was 4.1 million viewers, the season premier. This showed that you don’t always need to be the best, just popular
Ferguson’s 15 minutes of fame came and went, and was released after going 1-1 in the UFC. The UFC did this again, this time bringing in WWE super star Brock Lesnar, who would boost PPV buys through the roof, and further succeed capturing UFC gold. UFC 100 drew 1.6 million buys. Lesnar was one of the biggest draws in mma history, drawing in not only the hardcore mma fans, but the pro wrestling fans as well as the common fans who were curious to see how Lesnar would transition to mma.
The above mentioned examples lead to a safe assumption that Phil Brooks will bring in revenue to the UFC. The question is, how will the UFC utilize him? One possibility would be to have Brooks somehow on The Ultimate Fighter series to boost television ratings. The show has been on a steady decline, the most recent season (season 20) opened with the lowest premier ratings at only 536,000 viewers according to www.mmapayout.com.
There has been speculations on how the UFC could revamp the series to keep it breathing. One idea was to have MMA teams pit off against each other (for example: American Top Team vs. Team Alpha Male). Brooks being on the show would draw many viewers, and maybe they could either have him as a competitor, or a coach as they show him training and preparing for his upcoming UFC debut, which would be on cable television (a TUF finale for example), this would boost ratings for sure.
Brooks’ biggest hurdle (aside from a 0-0 MMA record) is his age. At 36 years old, Punk doesn’t have a long shelf life in your average mma competitor, and despite his late start in professional mma, you need to account all of the years Brooks’ body received punishment and wear-and-tear in professional wrestling. However he is used, Brooks will help the UFC gain even more fans and more income.