Almost every Saturday night, Mike Jackson is cageside, capturing the brutal beauty of MMA frame by frame for Legacy Fighting Allliance, a promotion that’s given dozens of fighters their first stepping stone to the Octagon. In the days between shows, he’s training. An undefeated boxer and kickboxer, he’s spent the last decade honing is craft. When he’s not working on his skills, he’s podcasting about MMA, tweeting about MMA, and breathing MMA. Mike Jackson lives MMA.
In February of 2016, he got to live out a reality that someone who embodies the sport could only dream of: a chance to fight in the Octagon for the chance to fight the incoming CM Punk. In just over 45 seconds, the dream was over. Jackson was submitted by Mickey Gall, who would go on to destroy Punk in his UFC debut seven months later.
Since then, Jackson has been vocal, calling on Punk who also made it clear he wants another shot in the UFC. After months of scuttlebutt, callouts, questions of if Punk should even return, UFC 225 will see Phil “CM Punk” Brooks walk into the cage in his hometown of Chicago, and it will be against Jackson.
So how did we get here? And how weird is it that what will instantly be one of the strangest and most anticipated-matchups of the year officially came together under the shadow of Conor McGregor losing his mind and going on a rampage at the UFC 223 media day?
We spoke to Jackson about chasing Punk and his want of getting the former WWE world champion out of the Octagon forever.
UPROXX: First off, are you a little bummed out that your announcement got overshadowed by Conor McGregor losing his mind?
Mike Jackson: You know, I can’t even really describe it, because it’s one of those things. It’s like, “Yeah, you were upstaged by Conor McGregor” but then at the same time it’s like, “You were upstaged by Conor McGregor.” It’s one of those. Just the way he did everything. Obviously, I’m sure people know about it right now, but I get it. I don’t agree with his methods of how he went about things. But, honestly I understand where he’s coming from. I understand his life and what people fail to understand is that a few years ago, Conor McGregor was poor. He was living on the streets, or he wasn’t in a financial stable place that he is now. And really what it comes down to is, at his heart, Conor McGregor is still a thug. Look, I love Conor, it’s not to say I don’t like what he does or anything. Actually, I’m a huge fan of Conor McGregor. I ended up doing my Ancestry.com DNA, come and find out I’m like 12% Irish, it really just works out for me.
Again, I understand where he’s coming from. You have Khabib (Nurmagomedov) who basically tried to big brother his man, Artem (Lobov), yesterday. And again, he still has that street mentality. In the streets, you can’t run up on someone from one gang or whatever, some territory, and you don’t expect there to be consequences for your actions. That’s literally what happened. It was just, you have Conor McGregor with this street mentality, and he basically brought the streets inside the UFC, is basically what happened. Again, I don’t agree with it, but I understand his issues.
How do you envision winning?
Knocking him out. I mean, here’s the thing. Going into the Mickey Gall fight, well, not even the fight itself but just the whole experience. I was doing these interviews and I was telling people, “Look man, it doesn’t matter who fights him, myself or Mickey Gall, we’re both gonna win, it doesn’t matter. It’s just how we win and the impact.” I was telling people like Mickey Gall he’s a brown belt in jiu jitsu, as far as his striking, he hasn’t really been improving, but his strong suit and his base is in jujitsu, in the scramble. I was like, “Look Mickey is just gonna go in there, take him down and submit him and that’s gonna be the end of it.”
When you have someone, when you have a guy like CM Punk’s mentality where, look he’s willing to step inside the cage. Dude, there’s something inside you when you got someone who’s willing to do that. He puts himself on the line out here in front of everybody, he takes his hell, but it’s the way he lost. He just got submitted. That leaves the door open, “Well, I didn’t really get beat up, yeah he took me out, I didn’t suffer any injuries, I’ll be back.”
I’m going in there to make sure that he doesn’t come back. My whole thing behind this was that obviously neither one of us deserve to be in the UFC. If you want to come into a sport where you have no experience in, you have to take the right path. He basically got to the UFC off of his name. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Do what you have to do. Just like Conor McGregor, you have to understand that there are consequences for your actions. The consequence that he’s going to face is me standing across the cage and I’m going in there to beat this guy up. I’m not going in there to just take him down, and submit him. I’m going in there to punish him and make sure he doesn’t step back in the cage.
With that said, I have all the respect for him. There’s no ill will and I have no animosity toward him. I’m just here to prove a point.