Put yourself in Mickey Gall’s shoes for a second.
You’re 23 years old. Your first pro fight takes place in front of Dana White. He immediately signs you to a contract and tells you that if you win in your UFC debut, you’re facing CM Punk, one of the most famous professional wrestlers in the world. You get the Punk fight and now you’re in a pay-per-view bout that’s billed just under names like Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, and Fabricio Werdum. You win that fight and it’s on to a matchup with “Super” Sage Northcutt, a fellow prospect who brings his own share of hype to the cage.
You win again. Four pro fights, four submission victories.
Randy Brown is next in a fight for the unofficial Lookin’ For A Fight title. Your first loss. You rebound with another quick submission against George Sullivan and then call for a fight with MMA lifer Diego Sanchez. It goes poorly.
Much of this drama has been brought on by Gall himself. At that fateful show in Philadelphia four years ago, he caught White’s attention with an impressive performance and a memorable call-out of Punk in the hopes of securing that potentially lucrative bout. Gall kept up that as a UFC fighter, essentially giving the matchmakers a day off by being the one to challenge Northcutt, Brown, and Sanchez.
That’s meant a lot of mic time and a lot of exposure for Gall, now 27, and potentially a lot of distraction as well. Speaking to MMA Fighting, Gall didn’t put too much stock into the possibility that outside noise has affected his performances; however, he acknowledged that developing a compelling persona has been key to surviving and thriving at the UFC level.
“I did feel like I was very aware that we’re not football players wearing helmets and shoulder pads and you don’t see our faces, we’re in there fighting in our underwear,” Gall said. “You should at least buff up your character a little bit to a degree. You should be a little more, just kind of a bigger version of yourself. Maybe not be as humble as you actually are. Maybe sit and talk that shit instead of being a little more polite. Maybe a little pro-wrestling-y.
“But at this point I do feel like I’ve also just settled into just being me. I know who I am, it’s helped me develop myself as a man and I know who I am. I like being me. I’m just going to be that guy and be the best version of him. I’m still going to have fun and talk shit and when appropriate not be humble and be loud and say I’m allergic to humble pie and be silly, but I know who I am and my people know who I am, and anyone who meets me can figure out pretty quickly who I am. So I’m just going to keep being me, but yeah, absolutely, I do think there’s a persona. You’ve got to make it fun. Look who did it the best, Conor McGregor. You think that’s how he acts all the time? I doubt it. That would be pretty f*cking annoying.”
Gall’s upcoming fight with Salim Touahri this Saturday at UFC Newark is free of drama, at least relative to what Gall has become used to. Perhaps the most intriguing storyline heading into it other than that it’s Gall’s first pro bout in his home state of New Jersey, is how he’ll recover from the loss to Sanchez.
Not only did Gall lose to an opponent a decade older than him, it was a name that Gall hand-picked and towered over when the two stood face-to-face at UFC 235. And Sanchez didn’t just beat him, he became the first man to finish Gall. Following that setback, Gall explained that he actually passed out while cutting weight for the Sanchez fight, a scare that Gall would later discover was related to his kidneys failing. He remained in the hospital for eight days after UFC 235.
The outcome gave plenty of ammunition to Gall’s critics, who questioned how much extreme dehydration had affected his health (he sees a middleweight run at the end of his career, but he’s comfortable at welterweight now) and whether this was a case of a much-ballyhooed young fighter being pushed too fast. Sanchez even accused Gall of biting him, a claim that Gall vehemently denies.
Gall recognizes that there are misconceptions about how he presents himself and he’s betting that his future performances will go a long way towards clearing those up.
“I think people see my confidence as cockiness, but don’t realize that my work ethic is why I have that confidence,” Gall said. “Because I’m out there doing triple sessions during the week, I’m out there running when I want to just chill out on the couch and go to the beach and relax, but I’m hopping into this stuff everyday. I’m putting myself in the fire.
“I don’t want to be f*cking scared in there. I don’t want to be scared. I’m afraid of being scared, I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to have any fear, I want to go in there 100 percent confident, as well prepared as I can be so I have no doubt that I’m gonna win. That’s where I derive my confidence from, is that hard work.”
Fighting at the Prudential Center on Saturday about 30 minutes from where he grew up in Green Brook, N.J., Gall is expecting about a hundred members of his family and friends to be in attendance. He’s also predicting that Touahri will be his first knockout win.
Should he pull it off and then issue one of his trademark call-outs, expect Gall’s name to be splashed across the headlines again. And he’s just fine with that.
“It’s definitely unique,” Gall said of his UFC journey. “Like I said, I’m happy, if anyone can handle it, it’s me. I’m happy to have my whole career be in front of the spotlight, under the spotlight, under the microscope, be scrutinized every step of the way. When people tell me I’m the man on Instagram, tell me I’m the G.O.A.T., something like that, I take that with a grain of salt the same way I do when they tell me I’m a piece of shit.
“I know who I am and I’m excited to keep writing this story, because it is a weird path. It’s been f*cking weird. But I think it’s going to be a really cool story when it’s all said and done. I’m a 27-year-old guy with seven pro fights, think about where I’m going to be when I pass 14. It’s gonna be cool.”