With all of three professional fights so far, Mickey Gall has yet to prove he will have a successful career in the UFC’s octagon.
Outside the cage, however, Gall may as well be a seasoned veteran.
The 24-year-old turned pro just over a year ago, but he’s playing the fight game better than most. Entering his fourth pro fight this week — his third in the UFC — Gall already has called out opponents and picked his fights twice. He’ll face fellow prospect and “Lookin’ for a Fight” alumnus Sage Northcutt in the co-main event at UFC on Fox 22 on Saturday in Sacramento, California.
“You want to be in control of your own destiny,” Gall said. “At least say your piece, put your two cents in.”
Gall first entered the minds of UFC fans when he called out CM Punk after his first professional win in November 2015 with UFC president Dana White in attendance at a regional show in Pennsylvania. Punk, a former WWE star had announced a transition to MMA and would need an opponent with a similar record to start his career.
Gall said the idea was “obvious” to him once he knew White would be at his fight, but he kept it mostly quiet until fight night.
“I thought I was going to be like the 15th guy calling him out,” Gall said. “But who else am I going to fight, you know what I mean? I was going to be 1-0 after that fight, you have to have a like record, who am I going to say, ‘yo, I want Robbie Lawler?’ They’d be like, ‘shut up, kid.’”
Gall hadn’t watched much professional wrestling since he was a kid and didn’t know much about Punk but saw it as a unique path into the spotlight. After a quick submission win over Mike Jackson in his UFC debut, Gall began preparing for Punk, studying promotional material since he’d yet to have a real fight.
“I thought he looked clunky, I tell you, at some points I was like, I wonder if he’s that good of an actor and he’s hustling me,” Gall said. “But you can’t fake the lack of athleticism, I think, there were certain spots, but I thought about it, I wondered if he was hustling me.”
Punk wasn’t hustling anyone, and Gall ran through him with a submission in 2:14.
When the fight was over, Gall was ready to take advantage of the spotlight, saying he wanted fellow “young gun” Northcutt.
“I think it’s a wasted opportunity to go out there and be quiet about it,” Gall said. “You’ve got to step out of your comfort zone. I’m going to fight someone anyway, so if I say their name, hopefully I can get the one I like.”
Gall said he landed on Northcutt’s name well before the Punk fight.
“I kind of had Sage in mind by the time I was fighting Mike Jackson, I had that kind of in my head,” Gall said. “Then I found out he was talking about going up to [welterweight]. It was like I was punching up, he had a lot of hype around him, a lot of exposure.”
The bubbly, photogenic Northcutt has become a star in his short time with the promotion thanks to an exciting karate-based style and an always-positive attitude.
“He’s a little bit of a dork, I’m sure he’s a very nice kid, but it’s a dog-eat-dog fight sport,” Gall said. “I think he’s a little corny, I think people are going to want to watch him bleed a little bit with that big smile of his.”
Gall’s early mastery of the fight game extends beyond callouts and trash talk. For this fight, he sought out and trained with Tristar Gym’s Firas Zahabi, who worked with Northcutt briefly this year. In three weeks at Tristar in Montreal, he was able to train with some of MMA’s best, including Georges St-Pierre, as well as get some extra insight on his opponent.
Now, Gall said he doesn’t see a way Northcutt can win.
“He’s a karate guy through and through, and I know boxing beats karate,” Gall said. “If you play that karate game, he can expose people. I also know my ground game is levels ahead of him, I think I get in there, make it a little ugly, put a little pressure on him, he’s not going to like it, I hit him, definitely not going to like that, and if we get on the ground, it’ll be a short night for him.”
And when the night’s over, Gall has another name in mind, a tradition he plans on continuing throughout his career.
“It’s smart, man, the fans like it, they don’t want to hear you say ‘blah, blah, blah.’ Come out and say a name and have a reason,” Gall said. “I’ll probably have a name on the microphone after every fight. That’s my shot, I get to pick my own path a little bit, pick the fights that I want, the hot fights.”