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Mickey Gall doesn't want to be known as ‘CM Punk guy’ after UFC 203

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s been a strange, short odyssey for Mickey Gall, the man who will welcome CM Punk to the Octagon at UFC 203 in September. In his first professional fight Gall was discovered by Dana White and his crew during while shooting an episode of Looking for a Fight at a show in Philadelphia. In a cunning move, Gall called out CM Punk — real name, Phil Brooks — after his victory, which raised White’s eyebrow and ultimately got him in the UFC.

In his second pro fight he took on Mike Jackson for the right to face CM Punk, with a grand total of one professional fight between them. He won via first round submission (via rear-naked choke) against the journalist-turned-fighter, and was confronted by Punk in the Octagon afterwards.

In his third pro fight, which takes place Sept. 10 in Cleveland, Ohio, Gall will finally get the chance to make CM Punk — the famous pro wrestler who is trying his hand at MMA on the grandest of stages — into his own personal showcase.

Not your everyday fighter trajectory, but Gall says he’s more than happy to have things go down just as they are. Then again, he doesn’t want to be just the "CM Punk guy." He wants to use his high profile fight to make a name for himself in the sport.

"Yeah, I don’t want to be the CM Punk guy," Gall said during an in-studio appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday. "The only reason I said his name [back in Nov. 2015] was to get my foot in the door. I got my foot in the door, I got the Jackson fight, I kind of kicked the door down, had a stomp around the living room with him and then now I want to climb. I want climb the stairs. I want to have the belt."

The fight was originally talked about for UFC 199, and then for UFC 200. However, with Brooks having undergone back surgery, it was pushed back ultimately to UFC 203. Gall said if he were fighting on the regional circuit, which he would still be doing if not getting his serendipitous break, he’d be 4-0 right now, rather than just 2-0.

Yet he was more than willing to wait for the "money fight" against Punk, with so many others vying for the chance to fight the crossover star. And though Brooks has yet to have a professional bout in MMA, Gall said he’s not taking the 37-year old rookie lightly.

"I have total respect for the guy," he told Ariel Helwani. "I respect him from the standpoint that he made himself into something great in one sport. You have to respect that greatness, you have to respect the superstar, all the things he’s done — he’s accomplished things, a self-made guy. I totally respect him. And he’s going to do me a favor. He’s done me a big favor. Taking this fight with me, and showing up in the cage with me, he’s doing me a huge favor."

Gall, who trains with the Gracie New Jersey Jiu-Jitsu Academy as well as the Miller bothers (Jim and Dan) in Whippany, is younger than Brooks by nearly a decade. Yet he also has more experience in the realm of cagefighting.

Asked if Brooks would last a minute against him, the heavy favorite Gall said it might be more challenging than that.

"Nah, probably a little longer," he said. "I think I’ll take him out in the first round. I’ll be ready to go five. I’m training for him as if he’s the champ, the baddest guy in the world.

Gall’s UFC debut was one of the more unique bouts in the company’s history under Zuffa ownership. It was, in essence, a sweepstakes fight for Gall to get the CM Punk bout, against a guy who splits time working in MMA media. The lead-up to the fight slipped at times into something like a novelty, which bugged Gall a little bit.

"I don’t want to be a sideshow," he said. "I didn’t like that [Jackson] came in and asked me a question. I understand he’s got another agenda; he’s trying to promote himself. Yeah, I didn’t love it, but that’s okay.

"It took away from it. I’m there to be a fighter. I’m not there to be a journalist or…I would have liked my opponent to be the same thing. Be there to fight."

Though Gall has had only a couple of professional bouts thus far, he also racked up a couple of wins as an amateur. In those fights, much like in his bout with Brooks, he didn’t know much about what his opponent would offer him.

So, what has he seen of the Roufusport-trained CM Punk?

"I’ve seen him jabbing — I’ve seen him doing a little bit of jiu-jitsu," he said. "I don’t need [to see it]. I’m just going to force my game."
Gall said was using his extended time between fights to work on his all around MMA game, "training broadly at getting my skills better." Asked if he thought CM Punk would be one-and-done after his fight with him, Gall said it wasn’t his concern. 

"I don’t know, he can do what he wants to do after," he said. "I think I may sour the experience for him in there a little bit. This is what I got to do. I got to go in there and be as violent as possible and hurt him. But if he still wants to get a little retribution after, then you know, he can do whatever he likes."

As for how he envisioned the fight going down, Gall said he could foresee Brooks taking a heavy shot and succumbing one of two ways.

"Hit him hard, drop him, then either pound him our or tap him out," he said.

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