OPINION: UFC's offbeat CM Punk experiment looks to have unearthed a real gem 7 years ago

OPINION: UFC's offbeat CM Punk experiment looks to have unearthed a real gem

Read the headlines.

They're all 'CM Punk steamrolled by...', 'Former WWE star CM Punk suffers early defeat...' and 'CM Punk embarrassed...'.


Not one headline I've come across begins with the words 'Mickey Gall' and that's understandable.

Gall is only in the UFC right now because a former WWE superstar wanted to test himself in real combat and, obviously, CM Punk's name was going to appear first in every article as it was he that people were tuning in to watch.


But it won't be long until Mickey Gall's name will stand on its own based on the evidence of the early stages of his UFC career.


His time as just the Punk-slayer ought to be short-lived because in the little time we've been able to get to know him, Gall has shown that he possesses a certain set of skills that sets him apart from the rest.

The welterweight prospect moved to 3-0 on Saturday with his third career rear naked choke and cynics will remain stoutly unconvinced, pointing to the lack of resistance offered up by his most recent pair of opponents.

But consider this.

Back in February, a 1-0 Gall was tasked with a UFC debut against admittedly inferior opposition but the pressure that comes with an expectation to win comprehensively, coupled with the notorious Octagon jitters, would be tricky for even experienced competitors from the regional circuit to come to terms with.


On Saturday, at 2-0, Gall was given a main card slot on a UFC pay-per-view card taking on a genuine superstar. And again, he was expected to win inside the first round.

And Gall gobbled up every crumb of pressure and used it as some sort of back-taking fuel.

The New Jersey youngster has a brown belt under UFC veterans Jim and Dan Miller and showed his no-gi prowess by giving Gordon Ryan, one of the best submission grapplers on the planet, a run for his money at the NAGA World Championships last year.


He's athletic, he's patient and, perhaps most impressively, he possesses a fight IQ beyond his years.

Gall knows that he is best served in grappling exchanges so doesn't engage in striking wars where the likelihood of losing increases dramatically.

At the UFC level, all fighters can fight. The clue is in what we call them. But not all fighters can promote.

And it's marketing acumen, more than superior technique, that leads to fame and fortune in the current landscape of mixed martial arts.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil and that's been proven time and time again.


It's why Chael Sonnen was given a title shot at light heavyweight despite the fact that he had just lost to Anderson Silva in the second round of their rematch for the middleweight championship.

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It's how Michael Bisping has managed to stay relevant for a decade, ultimately setting up his title shot against Luke Rockhold that went in his favour.

And it's how Conor McGregor skyrocketed to the pinnacle of the organisation in a short three year stint.

They know how to promote themselves and keep people interested in watching them fight, and it's a knack that is not possessed by some of the greatest of all time. Just ask Demetrious Johnson.

Right now, I have no interest in seeing CM Punk fight again. None.

But I can't wait to see Mickey Gall fight again, partly because his post-fight interview was nothing short of masterful.

He had an opponent at the ready for a call-out and it was another fighter with considerable levels of hype.

"I've got someone I want next," he said. "The fight everyone wants to see. I want 'Super' Sage Northcutt.

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"I think that boy's corny and I want to punch the spikes out of his hair."

You'd swear that it was Gall who had the background in promo-cutting for a living for Vince McMahon.

As he stared down the camera, swearing at every second word, the 24-year-old revealed himself as a promoter's dream.

"They say guys like us might get protection. Fuck that, I want war!" 

Like MMA's answer to penicillin, it became clear that Gall was an accidental discovery that could change everything.

Out of an expensive short term investment in CM Punk sprang a potential future superstar. One who has the looks, the personality, the attitude and the seeds of talent that can earn Mickey Gall a lengthy career in the Octagon.

Between his humility in feeling uncomfortable appearing on the official UFC 203 poster and his insistence on walking out to 'Hey Mickey', Gall has already cultivated a character for himself.

Of course it's too early to tell whether he will be causing any noise in the title picture down the line but the opening credits of this movie have left me excited to see how the story plays out.

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And like all great marketers, Gall left his post-fight interview with a message which finished with a quote that would look absolutely fantastic on the front of a t-shirt.

"I see a lot of hate for this guy online, not just in the MMA community but as a people, I think we all hate too much.

"Fuck the hate, we need to love each other. We're all going to be dead in a hundred years.

"Let's love each other, man. Fuck the hate"

A very NSFW t-shirt, that is.