After the 24-year-old New Jersey product blitzed Mike Jackson at UFC Fight Night 82 via first-round submission, all signs pointed toward a UFC 199 matchup with CM Punk as his next step inside the Octagon.
Then, news broke that Punk, nèe Phil Brooks, elected to undergo back surgery, delaying their showdown.
"[My first reaction was] 'Oh, s--t. Uh-oh. What’s going to happen now?'" Gall told MMA Fighting. "There was that second where everything was just kind of up in the air. I just had a bunch of texts, like, ‘Sorry, bro.’ ‘Sorry, buddy.’ He pulled out.’
"Then we got in touch with [UFC President] Dana [White]. He talked to my dad, he said, ‘Fortunately, it’s minor. It’s a four-week thing. It’s a minor surgery. Four weeks. The fight’s still on.’"
Given that timeline, Gall recognizes that UFC 199 is now out of the question, but he's instead eyeing an even more high-profile stage to welcome Punk to the UFC.
"I think it’s just a four-week gap that we’re losing, and I think that could coincide perfectly with UFC 200," Gall said. "That’s what I’m hoping."
Adding a layer of intrigue to the entire situation, Punk was on site at UFC Fight Night 82 in Houston to watch Gall go to work. The former WWE star briefly shook hands and exchanged words with Gall inside the cage post-fight, and he attended a host of interviews, never indicating that his back was injured.
"He [Punk] picked [journalist] Ariel [Helwani] up!" Gall said. "I don’t want to say I scared him. I think he should be scared. I’m sure when he saw what I did his stomach probably dropped a little bit. He got that feeling of, ‘Alright, this is going to happen. It’s real now.’
"From what he was saying, he was excited and stuff. I remember seeing interviews of him pumping his fist and being happy about it. He was probably putting it on a little bit, but I do believe he wants to fight and he’s going to fight me."
Beyond Punk – should the fight happen at UFC 200 or later – Gall believes he owns the tools to continue to compete against the world's elite welterweights for years to come. While Punk got him to the UFC, this is not the fight that will define his career when the book is closed.
"I don’t think anything’s guaranteed, but I do have a longer contract than just to fight CM Punk," Gall said. "My thing is, right now I’m ‘that CM Punk guy.’ I’m that guy that’s fighting CM Punk. I will not be remembered as ‘that CM Punk guy.’ By this time next year, I don’t think I’ll be known as that. I called out CM Punk because I wanted to be a UFC fighter. I wanted to be in the UFC. I wanted to excel there. People will forget that I fought CM Punk.
"I stack up great. For years, I’ve been handling myself with UFC fighters. I’ve been training with Jim and Dan [Miller]. I’ve trained with Camelo Marrero, Charlie Brenneman, Rafaello Oliveira. I handle myself. I do my thing. I know I can handle myself with the best in the world. I’m of that caliber."