Mickey Gall had his mixed martial arts journey all planned out.
“I wanted to burst on the scene,” he said. “I started out 4-0 with three UFC wins. I wanted to be 10-0 and be the champ, the most complete phenom that the world’s ever seen.”
He pauses before continuing.
“But s**t happens and there’s a lot to learn in this sport. I know my skills; I can take anyone on any day. But I’m still learning on the job, learning how to make sure my best 15 minutes are when it’s my time to walk out and fight. I’m getting more reps with that, I get another rep at it this weekend and I’m ready to put on a show for my home crowd.
“I love it. I’m loving every day and I can’t wait for the next day.”
The 27-year-old Gall sounds like he means it. He doesn’t have the glossy unbeaten record anymore, and with losses in two of his last three fights, his slate has gone from 4-0 to 5-2. But as he approaches his first bout in his home state of New Jersey against Salim Touahri this Saturday, he feels like he’s ready to make his mark again.
It’s nearly five months since his defeat to Diego Sanchez, a second-round stoppage that devastated the Green Brook native, and not just because of the mark in his loss column, but because by the time he made it to the Octagon, he was simply not ready to fight.
“I was super, super sick,” said Gall. “I was sick leading up to it, dehydrated, and it was just too much on me. A minute into the fight, I was zapped. I had no energy and it was a push the whole time trying to fight, trying to stay in there, but I was dead, less energy than I’ve ever had in my life.”
Why fight, then?
“I wasn’t aware of how bad it was,” he said. “So that was never even a consideration to not fight. I was looking forward to that day for months. It was never a thought of not fighting.”
So how scary is it once the Octagon door closes, any stamina you had is gone and a fighter who has been in the UFC since you were 13 years old is bearing down on you?
“It was frustrating,” Gall said. “It really wasn’t scary. It made me angry and it was so frustrating just having your body not respond when you wanted it to be the best it can be. But honestly, it’s taken fear away. I’ve been in there on my worst day. I’ve been in there when I should have been in the hospital. It was a hard lesson learned, but it’s an experience I think I’m gonna take forward. I can’t wait to get in that cage feeling good. What can happen to me now? It can’t go worse than that.”
Fast forward, and Gall – a newly minted jiu-jitsu black belt – is back in Jersey after previously training in Los Angeles, and while he doesn’t rule out more out of town camps in the future, for the moment, there’s no place like home.
“It just felt right,” he said. “I was getting good work here, happy to be with my team, and I’m definitely happier at home. I’ll still travel and go other places to train and work, but home’s always gonna be here. Between sessions when I’m away, I’m thinking about everyone back home and just killing time. But when I’m here, I can go see my family and my friends. They’re just a short drive away, rather than the other side of the country. I learned a lot going out, and I’ve taken those lessons home, but I’m doing what I gotta do.”
Next on the “to do” list? Beat Touahri on Saturday.
“There are times, like after my last fight, where I was down and embarrassed and frustrated and pissed, but that’s the nature of the sport,” Gall said. “The highs are high, the lows are low, and right now, I just see a big opportunity in front of me and I see myself crushing it.”