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Sweepstakes bout to face CM Punk is just about the damdest thing you’ll see

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS – Shudder to think, but it very well could have been any of us on the chronicling side of things to get plucked from a media scrum and stuck into a cage to fight for the right to face CM Punk. It ended up being Mike Jackson, a Houston-based journalist-cum-prizefighter, who found himself answering questions on Wednesday about a fight coming up he still can’t believe he’s taking part in. When asked what in the actual hell was going on, Jackson shrugged his shoulders and wondered aloud if it weren’t a big hoax.

The truth is, nobody’s real sure. The one certainty seems to be it’s happening. Of all the media members that have badgered Dana White over the years, Jackson is the first who will take off his shirt and let his hands fly for a betting public.

How to explain Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 82 preliminary fight between Jackson and Mickey Gall, the latter a 1-0 fighter who was discovered when White and his crew swung east to film Lookin’ For a Fight? Gall won his one and only pro fight when White was cageside in Philly a couple months back, and had the foresight to call out CM Punk, a famous pro wrestler-turned-mixed martial artist who has never competed in an MMA bout. Is this all a big joke? I should think not. The promotion Gall was fighting on that night was called "Dead Serious."

If you’re keeping track, that’s one combined pro fight between a trio of MMA greenhorns — one a pro wrestler, one a journalist, and one just some dude the wind kicked up. Just what are we playing at here?

And is any of this registering to Jackson (0-0), who showed up with a piece of black tape over the Lacoste alligator on his shirt, in plaid golf pants, eating a Subway sandwich, which he seemed to enjoy very much?

"No, and I’m sitting there today, and I’m looking there and I’m seeing Reebok and stuff like this — it really hasn’t hit me yet," Jackson said when I asked him about it. "Maybe it’ll hit me come fight night. For me, this is a fight that you look at, it could take place in any organization…Legacy, or, you know...any regional show. It just so happens that this love triangle with CM Punk is taking place. I can’t feel the pressure…for me there is no pressure, because this isn’t a UFC caliber type fight."

Talk about your wild hyperbole. "This isn’t a UFC caliber fight" is rarely heard among people getting set to compete in a UFC fight. This kind of talk seems more than a little confessional in a sport where people are known to puff out their chests. Maybe that’s why they call Jackson "The Truth." And a love triangle? Is Depeche Mode behind this?

The craziest thing is that Jackson isn’t even assured of a shot against CM Punk, he just knows he has a live lotto ball in the wheel. Everything’s really just, you know…real, real theoretical and sort of "we’ll see what shakes."

"Let’s say it’s a boring fight, I’m not necessarily guaranteed a shot with Punk," Jackson said, a little in awe to be having this conversation. "But, I’ve never been in a boring fight. You know, Mickey Gall, he gets the win and he’s guaranteed the shot on paper. The only real pressure is I just need to perform."

See, this is where it gets even stranger. Jackson, as a part-time media type with some experience in kickboxing, knows damn well when a warm body is booked for the express purpose of putting up a mean front. So I brought it up…if Gall is guaranteed the shot with a win, and Gall versus CM Punk is the desired narrative that’s in play, that means the man in the plaid pants is the warm body.

"I understand the circumstances that I’m in," he said, his tone a little too mirthful to match the words. "It is one of things where’s it’s kind of almost they’re bringing me in to have an opponent, so to speak. But again, I can’t look at it like that. I have to go out there and perform. I have to look at this like it’s any other fight. I need to go in there and knock this guy out."

Jackson is going to debut on Saturday night, in a fight put together for the express purpose of accommodating another fighter who needs an opponent with an equal lack of experience. What doesn’t make sense?

"I understand business," Jackson said. "I’m a business man, and I understand the UFC’s a business. You have an individual like CM Punk who wants to compete in MMA. So, from a business standpoint you sign somebody like him with name recognition because you know his name alone is going to bring the fans. It would have been good if it was a Brock Lesnar type of thing where he had some amateur wrestling. But again it’s a business, and business is here to make money, so that’s what we’re doing here. You can’t throw him in with killers. You’ve got to throw him in with those with limited experience as well."

If nothing else, Jackson seems perfectly underqualified for the job, and I’ve got to say — I never thought I’d be writing a sentence like that during Fight Week at a UFC. The fight game is full of surprises.

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