LAS VEGAS — The good news for Mickey Gall is that he is arguably the most well-known fighter in MMA with just two pro fights under his belt. The bad news is that it also comes with more pressure than anyone who has his tenure.
Jim Miller, one of Gall's coaches, thinks Gall has handled that pressure marvelously to this point. It's just about to get much worse, though.
Gall (2-0) beat Mike Jackson back in February to earn the much sought-after distinction of being CM Punk's first opponent in the UFC. Gall takes on CM Punk, the former WWE star, at UFC 203 on Sept. 10 in Cleveland.
"It's definitely big," Miller told MMA Fighting during UFC 200 fight week. "It's Mickey's third pro fight. There's a lot of pressure. He handled that first fight fantastically. The pressure involved, coming in and having all this hype around him, he handled it great. There's going to be even more for this one. Even though I think his opponent is less dangerous — he is taking a step down opponent wise — you can't let the nerves get to you. Hopefully, he can keep everything in check. He's got a good head on his shoulders. I think he will. I don't think CM stands a chance."
Miller beat Takanori Gomi by first-round submission at UFC 200 on Saturday here at T-Mobile Arena. The New Jersey native has been in the UFC since 2008 and a pro fighter for 11 years. There is not much Miller and his brother Dan, also a longtime UFC fighter, have not seen.
But this situation with CM Punk is different. Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, has no combat sports experience and very little martial arts know-how, at least until he signed with the UFC back in December 2014. Punk has been training at Roufusport for the last 18 months or so and everyone there says he is working extremely hard. The question is, will that be enough in a UFC fight against a guy who has trained for years.
Miller, 32, has no idea what to expect, he said. It's hard to train for a guy who no one has ever seen compete, because he simply has not in MMA. So, Miller said, Gall won't do that.
"He just trains to get better," Miller said. "That's the approach I've always had as well. Just train to get better. Train to fight the best guy on the planet and when the guy that shows up doesn't meet those standards, you beat the crap out of him."
Gall, 24, cannot know for certain what he's in store for in September. And he will surely have some undo pressure, considering CM Punk's massive fan following and the increased exposure. But, Miller said, there's no doubt this is a good thing for the young fighter.
"He found the golden ticket, man," Miller said.