There are three UFC belts on the line on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Well, maybe four, at least according to Mickey Gall, who fights Randy Brown at UFC 217.
“I’ve got the ‘Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight Belt,’ I’ll give him a shot at that,” Gall said.
In the only bout on the card featuring local talent, Queens’ Brown faces New Jersey’s Gall in a matchup of two welterweights with a considerable history for two young prospects. Both were featured in the first episode of Dana White’s web series, “Lookin’ for a Fight,” where he and his partners scout local talent for the UFC. Brown earned a contract after successfully defending his Ring of Combat championship for the second time, while Gall was signed following his first professional bout, getting White’s attention by calling out wrestling star CM Punk.
“Our destinies have been entangled forever after all of this so I feel like this was just meant to happen,” Brown said.
It may feel like destiny for the pair, but their journeys to this fight couldn’t be more different. Gall, 25, sits at 4-0 with three UFC wins, although only his most recent fight came against someone with previous professional experience. While Gall has impressed in the cage with four rear-naked choked victories, he’s truly made his name with his mouth, forging his own path in the UFC with callouts and trash talk. His win over fellow “Lookin’ for a Fight” alumnus Sage Northcutt last December only has increased Gall’s confidence that he belongs in the UFC despite relatively little experience.
“I know I can always handle the moment,” Gall said. “I was the fight before the co-main with CM Punk and I handled that no problem, and then I was the co-main event in my third UFC fight, and it felt great. It felt like I could’ve been fighting in my backyard, I felt good. Moments never get to me, I’m cool under pressure, and I learned all that.”
In the time that Gall’s made three trips to the octagon, Brown, 27, has competed five times for the UFC, going 3-2. His most recent bout came at UFC 208 in February at Barclays Center, where he said “so much went wrong” in a decision loss to Belal Muhammad.
While both men took some time off to heal and train, the fight’s been on the radar since earlier this year, Gall said.
“He’s a nice kid, we’re definitely friendly. But I saw when his opponent fell out for his fight in Brooklyn, he said on a Facebook Live thing to Dana White, ‘What about Mickey Gall?’ And I was like, ‘Oh. OK.’ And I was thinking, ‘Damn I thought we were friendly,’ but then I realized this is beautiful, this couldn’t be better,” Gall said. “He’s coming off the exact same episode of ‘Lookin’ for a Fight.’ I love the fight matchup-wise, I love the fight for myself. He’s got a little hate for me, I’ve got a little hate for him, so let’s fight.”
Outside the show, the pair had crossed paths previously during a grappling training session. Both men base their camps in the area and each cites Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan as a gym they visit. While they’ve exchanged pleasantries before, Gall’s attitude and trash talk has rubbed Brown the wrong way entering the fight.
“We’ve trained together before in the past, he has great jiu-jitsu, has good grappling, but he talks a lot of [expletive]. He’s talking a whole bunch of [expletive]. And for me, it’s just like, ‘Bro, you haven’t done anything to be talking the way you’re talking,’” Brown said. “The level of competition I’ve fought and the level of competition he’s fought, there’s no comparison. He’s fought Sage Northcutt, who has no grappling. He’s fought a reporter, Michael Jackson, and then CM Punk. And he’s dominated these guys — as he should. But as far as I’m concerned, this is his first pro fight, with me, and he’s going to be tested.”
As someone who’s put in his time and experienced the ups and downs of MMA, Brown says it can be frustrating to see someone such as Gall get opportunities without putting in the work in the cage.
“I don’t have animosity toward anybody in this sport, it’s all business, everybody’s trying to feed their family. I just get annoyed when I see guys that didn’t pay their dues, didn’t do nothing on the local circuit, didn’t grind,” Brown said. “They just don’t know what it’s like to struggle. He’s a privileged kid, he never struggled for nothing, you can see that. I work hard, I’ve been through it, I’ve slept on gym mats.
“I’m 9-2 and I’ve learned from my losses. It sounds like a cliché, but I’ve learned from the Belal fight. I once was 4-0. I know what it’s like. I also thought I was the best thing in the world and that I was untouchable. And that’s good, he should feel like that. When you’re 4-0, you think that you’re unbeatable, not to mention he’s 3-0 in the UFC. I was there, and I’ve learned from my experiences and fights that I’ve been through. He’s yet to experience that, and he will, and I’m going to be a major part of his career. He has a bright future, and he’s going to learn from this and he will be better.”
Gall understands he’s put a target on his own back with his callouts and path to the spotlight, but he also believes he does more than talk a good game and is prepared for anyone the UFC puts in front of him. Even with significantly less cage time than Brown, he’s unfazed by the challenge.
“I don’t want to be anyone but me, I don’t want to do it any way but my way. It could only have done my way by me. The way it went, the way it’s happened, the thought, the strategy, the plan, that’s all me, man,” Gall said. “I will beat him. I’m getting that win, I’m more confident than I’ve been for any of my previous UFC fights.”
After admittedly taking Muhammad lightly in his last bout, Brown isn’t taking any chances and is gearing up to face the skilled combatant Gall believes himself to be.
“For me, I prepared for the guy that he said he was, the guy he portrays himself to be, all the talk that he’s been talking on social media, that’s who I prepared for,” Brown said. “I just hope that guy shows up, because if that guy doesn’t show up, he’s going to be in for a horrible night. I’m going to hurt him. Not only will he lose, he’ll be hurt.”
Gall said he’ll be exactly who he’s always been once the cage door closes, and the result will be the same as usual.
“A Randy Brown will never beat a Mickey Gall. It just doesn’t happen,” Gall said. “He’s a good normal MMA fighter. I’m different, I’ve got something different to me, I have more tricks. He’s typical, I don’t think he really performs, he just goes in there and does stuff. I’m going in there, I’m going to violently win and I’m going to take someone out and I’m going to get a win. I win at MMA fights. People like to say, ‘Who have you beat though?’ Every single person I’ve ever faced, that’s who I’ve beat. Every single person, and it’s going to be no different.”