For as often as athletes vow to “keep it real,” well, here’s an accomplished sports figure competing honestly for the first time. After becoming WWE royalty, Phil Brooks (d/b/a CM Punk) decided that the slickly marketed burlesque that is pro wrestling was no longer for him. Recently, at age 36, he quit the WWE to join the UFC’s roster of mixed martial arts fighters.
This career change has cleaved fan bases in both sports. To WWE Nation, he is a rebel—Che Guevara in boots and body oil—who made his break from an oppressive regime; or he is a the ultimate heel, a self-indulgent traitor who has chomped the hand that fed him. The UFC tribalists either admire and welcome a celebrity from another sport, who, as Punk tweeted, “would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.” Others resent his perceived hubris and the fact that, instantly, he has become one of the more popular fighters in the promotion.
Read more at Sports Illustrated.