There are many prevalent storylines surrounding the UFC 225 fight card taking place this Saturday in Chicago, but perhaps the most fascinating is the return of hometown hero CM Punk. Not a whole lot of fuss is being made about his opponent, Mike "The Truth" Jackson, but the self-proclaimed showman and entertainer out of Houston, Texas, is aiming to change all of that once the cage door is locked.
One intriguing aspect of this matchup on Saturday is the fact that both fighters are 0-1 in their respective professional careers, with each suffering first-round losses to up-and-coming welterweight Mickey Gall. And neither fighter has ever won an amateur bout either, as Jackson's only other time in MMA came in 2009 when he lost to Nick Felder at an event titled "Lonestar Beatdown" in Houston.
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Back in 2016, Jackson was not only battling nagging injuries prior to his bout with Gall, but was also working on getting his boxing and kickboxing careers off the ground. He did desire to get back into MMA, though, and a call from Legacy FC president Mick Maynard set the wheels in motion for that return.
Maynard contacted Jackson to participate in what was essentially an eliminator bout to face the debuting Punk later in the year. In an interesting twist, Maynard actually told Jackson the fight would take place in Legacy and not the UFC, which had Jackson weighing his options. After Maynard revealed it was a test by UFC president Dana White to see if Jackson would take the bout under any circumstances, the fight was on.
On the Fight Pass prelims in February 2016, Jackson had the rare opportunity to make his professional debut in the UFC -- much like his opponent on Saturday did. And much like Punk, Jackson was forced to submit to the jiu-jitsu expertise of Gall, something he readily admits he wasn't fully prepared for on such short notice.
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"Let's say I trained for a month," Jackson told CBS Sports. "This is a time where I'd been worried about boxing and kickboxing, so I wasn't worried about jiu-jitsu. That's not to say my jiu-jitsu isn't any good, it's just that when you haven't done anything in a while -- especially jiu-jitsu -- you're gonna lose some steps; it was what it was.
"And that Gall kid, he's no slouch. The kid is good. He's a legit prospect and has the potential to be a future champion. So a loss to Mickey Gall, obviously it sucked and I took the 'L,' but at the end of the day, it was what it was."
Obviously, having learned a harsh lesson in that sudden submission loss to Gall, Jackson has taken the necessary steps to ensure the jiu-jitsu won't be an issue this time around with a much more viable training camp.
"I've had plenty of time to prepare this time around, and to be honest with you, this is the best training camp I've ever had," Jackson said. "I've added a solid jiu-jitsu coach, the wrestling is there as well, I've added recovery methods -- it's just much better for me."
That fight with Gall was out of the blue, so to speak, but make no mistake about it -- this fight with Punk is a battle that Jackson was specifically clamoring for, to the point where he even created a pro wrestling-inspired promo on YouTube calling for a shot at the former WWE champion. Now that Jackson is mere days away from receiving the fight he desired, he's quick to point out the experience difference between the two.
"The difference here, it's really the level of competition," Jackson said. "Not to knock the guy at all, I have all the respect for Phil [Brooks], but when you take my name out of it, you take his name out of it, you have just two guys. And when you look at what both guys have done in combat sports, there's literally no comparison. You have a professional fighter in me, and he's, at best, an amateur fighter. What do you think is gonna happen?
"People are getting so caught up in the persona of CM Punk, they're not looking at things realistically. He's a one-fight amateur fighter. I'll give him this, he has some solid training in Duke Roufus, but you have to think about the physical abilities of a man and what they're able to learn in such a short period of time. I respect the hustle, I respect the grind, but for me, I'm a natural athlete and I pick things up more quickly."
The glaring differences between the two, in his mind, is that Jackson believes he can end this fight on Saturday night at will, effectively crushing the MMA dreams of Punk in the process.
"I can end him in the first round, if I choose to. I can end it in the first minute, if I choose to," Jackson confidently admitted.
Now should Jackson emerge victorious on Saturday, in any manner, questions will immediately arise as to what's next for him. Not only does Jackson fail to struggle with an answer to that question (as most in his position probably would) but he has multiple options bouncing in his head. First and foremost, he wants more eyes on him, which in turn puts more eyes on him and the Mike "The Truth" entertainment brand.
In addition to fighting, Jackson has run MiketheTruth.com -- a blog he started eight years ago covering many sports in addition to MMA. But mainly, Jackson's undying love for the sport has led him to cover the Houston MMA scene endlessly as a photographer and blogger. He's notorious for covering Legacy Fighting Alliance, based out of Houston, a promotion that has produced the likes of UFC stars Sage Northcutt and Derrick Lewis.
"To be honest with you, this fight isn't even really about me," Jackson said. "Obviously I'm here for the check, because, again, I'm a businessman, and I'm thinking business first. But for me, it's really about putting all eyes I can on the Mike 'The Truth' entertainment brand.
"I was there [Legacy FC] before people knew who Sage Northcutt was. I was there before people knew who Derrick Lewis was. I was there before people knew who Holly [Holm] or Valentina [Shevchenko] were. This fight is gonna put more eyes on me, which in turn puts more eyes on some of the up-and-coming talent. And that's what it's about, it's about the people I sort of get to bring along with me. So for me, the big thing is uplifting the brand.
While Jackson is hoping to expand his brand at UFC 225, a win could set up some intriguing options, including one that hits real close to home with UFC president Dana White
"As far as the fighting goes now, there's a few avenues I can take here. The first one is I wanna fight Artem Lobov," Jackson revealed. "That's only because I remember after the Gall fight, before the UFC cut me from my contract, I was looking around for a good matchup stylistically for me, and I think that would be a great fight at 155.
"I'd love to box Conor [McGregor], I'd beat the s--- out of Conor. I'll box with him, and I'll knock the s--- out of him.
"But the one that I'm honestly hoping for is I wanna get Zuffa Boxing started. I don't know if Dana was trolling with that or whatnot, but if that's something that can happen, I'd like to help push it along. So those are kinda what I see next for me."
Regardless of the outcome Saturday at UFC 225 or what's to take place in the future, the charismatic Jackson is just along for this incredible ride, enjoying every second of the madness.
"For me it's just, you know ... I'm a businessman, and I understand what comes along with this. I enjoy the spotlight," Jackson said. "First and foremost, I'm an entertainer, and that's how I'm looking at this. It's a spectacle. It's maybe not necessarily something that should be in the UFC, but I'm not knocking because I understand why we're doing this. I've broken this down from a logical standpoint, and at the end of the day it's a business and this was a business decision. I'm just enjoying the ride, man."