UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta doesn't know who CM Punk, Phil Brooks, will fight in his professional mixed martial arts debut -- but he promises it will be someone "competitive."
The UFC signed the longtime professional wrestler to a contract late last year, despite the fact Brooks has zero professional MMA experience.
The 36-year-old is preparing for his Octagon debut at Roufusport in Milwaukee, although no date has been announced. Brooks expects to compete at middleweight. Fertitta said the bout will likely fill a pay-per-view co-main event.
Speculation has run rampant regarding who Brooks will face in his debut. Several UFC fighters have already requested that chance, prompting some to wonder whether an athletic commission would even sanction such a matchup.
Fertitta recently told ESPN.com he will lean heavily on UFC matchmaker Joe Silva in terms of booking Brooks' first professional fight, but he offered his thoughts on the type of opponent he envisions for Brooks.
"I think it has to be somebody with some level of credentials," Fertitta told ESPN.com. "It's not just going to be some guy off the street. It's going to be somebody who is a professional mixed martial artist -- certainly somebody who MMA media will recognize and know."
When asked if the UFC will go outside of its current roster to find the right fit for Brooks, Fertitta responded, "most likely."
"But I'm going to defer to Joe Silva," Fertitta said. "We'll let him bring two to three names to the table and we'll figure it out from there. But I guarantee you it will be a competitive guy."
Shortly after the UFC deal was announced, Brooks, who has trained in karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, told ESPN.com he was confident the promotion wouldn't go too hard on him to start, but said he was willing to fight anyone.
"They will give me a fight that makes sense -- unless this thing is a big rib on me and they have me fight Anderson Silva right away," Brooks said. "I could tell you what the outcome of that fight would be.
"Only time will tell, but if I had to guess who's standing across the Octagon from me, it's probably a young kid with around the same experience as myself."
In terms of the logic behind signing a professional wrestler to his MMA debut inside the UFC cage, Fertitta said he expected some resistance to it but considers it to be fighter development -- something the UFC has done since its beginning.
"We knew there was going to be backlash," Fertitta said. "At the end of the day, we did our research and we talked to the people he's trained with. We're going to find out what he can bring to the table. We're confident he has the skills to fight. We don't know exactly what level yet. Sometimes, you've got to invest in what we call 'fighter development.' We've done it before and guys have developed into very competitive fighters, and we've done it where guys have not."