It’s been quite a year for Mickey Gall.
At the beginning of 2016, the New Jersey native was that kid who called out CM Punk. A relative unknown, Gall took a shot last November when UFC President Dana White was in the audience for his first pro fight against Ron Templeton, and it worked.
On Saturday, Gall, now with two UFC wins already under his belt, will seek his third against Sage Northcutt in the UFC on FOX co-main event. Is it safe to call this a life-changing year for Gall?
“It’s been surreal and I feel very fortunate,” he said. “I know people say, ‘You did it, you called your shot,’ this and that, but anyone can say things. I got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time, CM Punk definitely gave me a nice springboard, but honestly, I’ve done nothing different in the last year than I’ve done the past seven years. All I’ve been focusing on is making myself the best MMA fighter I can be. That’s what I’m doing now, and that hasn’t changed.”
UFC Unfiltered: MMA is dog eat dog and Mickey's gonna eat Sage
The 24-year-old Gall, who submitted Mike Jackson in 45 seconds in his UFC debut and then took two minutes and 14 seconds to do the same to former WWE superstar Punk, did get a nice springboard into the UFC welterweight picture. But to call it luck? There’s no such thing at this level. If you call for a shot and you get it, be prepared to fight to keep it. That’s what Gall did, with the impressive part being that he did it with all eyes on him against Punk. It’s a situation every fighter says he or she wants to be in, but not everyone really means it.
“Winners want that,” Gall said. “My dad said that about me – no matter what the moment is, I stay even. I’ll be honest, I get nervous. Before the CM Punk fight, even though I knew 99 percent it’s all mine, I knew if I lost or let him do anything positive, I’d look like a joke. If I lost to that guy, my career - what I put the last eight years of my life into - is basically over. So I felt the pressure, but when it comes time to get out there, I know I just have to beat up one dude, and I’m good at that. I know my skills will carry me, and that brings me confidence.”
So calling out fellow prospect Sage Northcutt after defeating Punk was a no brainer for Gall, who enjoyed the whole experience around his second UFC fight, but was already looking ahead.
“It was cool,” he said. “It was a great opportunity and it gave me a great trajectory in this sport. It kept me from obscurity, where a lot of great MMA fighters stay in. They put me right on the main card on a big Pay-Per-View, and now it got me a great fight that I wanted for this one. I guess I wish I didn’t curse so much in the post-fight interview (Laughs), but other than that, it’s been great.”
Why Northcutt, though? On paper, it makes sense, and obviously the UFC agreed. But for Gall, it’s one of those situations where he can’t help but be the bad guy when facing Texas’ All-American boy. Gall agrees, but he’s okay with wearing the black hat for one night.
“It’s a great fight for me, a great stylistic matchup,” he said. “You see him and he’s explosive, strong, has too many muscles showing (Laughs), but I don’t think his game will match up well with mine. I think I’m levels ahead of him on the ground, and if I hit him, I guarantee I hit harder than him. He’s gonna find that out in there. I’m gonna bully that kid. It’s a dog eat dog sport. He wants to take everything from me, so I’m ready to take everything from him.”
It’s the kind of matchup you rarely see in boxing today, where two hot prospects have to put together matching 20-0 records before promoters are willing to risk them. In the UFC, that’s not the case, and while there’s still business to be taken care of in the Octagon on Saturday, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the two will meet again a couple years down the line.
“A hundred percent,” Gall agrees. “That’s the beauty of MMA. No one’s sacred and you don’t get these tomato can-type fights. In boxing, a lot of these guys get protected. That’s why I said, ‘Let’s go.’ We’re both ‘Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight’ guys, we’re both getting a little shine, we’re prospects. And when I beat his ass, I’m gonna own him forever. And the next time I fight him, I’m gonna see him again and I’m gonna own him.”
Fighting words indeed, but Mickey Gall likes to fight, and he can’t wait to do it again in Sacramento. Will it be a letdown from all the hype surrounding his win over Punk?
Not in the slightest.
“I’ll take more pride in winning this fight,” he said. “It almost means more because I get to fight a real UFC-caliber fighter. This makes me step up more and this one gets me more excited. So there are no letdowns at all.”