Unlike Mickey Gall, Mike Jackson was unable to finish CM Punk in the former WWE star’s second MMA outing last Saturday at UFC 225.
Instead, Jackson dominated Punk, defeating him by a lopsided unanimous decision in the opening fight on pay-per-view. (Punk lost to Gall in September 2016 via first-round submission.) Still, the welterweight, a two-to-one favorite heading into UFC 225, received some criticism after the fight for not stopping Punk.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan even — perhaps jokingly — suggested in the third round that Jackson put a wager on himself via decision and purposely wasn’t finishing the fight. Jackson laughed that remark off. He said he tried his best to win by stoppage and was going for the early knockout; Punk simply has a really good chin.
“I knew going into the fight that Phil was going to be a tough cat,” Jackson told BloodyElbow.com. “I never slept on his ability. I knew skill-wise I was far superior — and I showed that — but the dude has a hell of a chin. He took some shots cleanly.”
Even though Jackson was 0-1 as a pro ahead of UFC 225, losing to Punk, who started training MMA in 2015, would be a bad loss on his record. As the betting favorite, Jackson didn’t want to make any dumb moves once his hope of a first-round knockout fell short.
“I could’ve knocked him out eventually, but do I really want to risk gassing trying to knock this guy out? I didn’t want to take that chance,” he said. “So I didn’t rush in for the kill. Who wants to be the guy to lose to CM Punk? I was very smart in my strategy. I realized I couldn’t get him out of there with the early first-round knockout, so plan B was just to beat him up — and that’s what I did.”
Punk was also 0-1 as a pro heading into the bout, so on paper, it’s not too meaningful of a win for Jackson. But Punk has a major following from his pro wrestling career, so having his name on Jackson’s record will certainly come in handy for “The Truth.”
Jackson said the Punk win will help grow his brand. The Texas native also works as a photojournalist and has his own website. He added that he was noticed by fans on the streets of Chicago multiple times before and after the fight — the Punk effect is clearly alive and well.
“We gonna raise the platform, we gonna get more eyes on me, which in turn gets more eyes on fighters that are under the Mike The Truth brand,” Jackson said. “It’s just a positive for everybody around.”
Jackson’s performance was heavily criticized by UFC president Dana White. He wasn’t happy that Jackson went the distance with Punk and that he seemingly showboated throughout the fight. Jackson denied this claim several times.
White said after the event he regretted putting Jackson vs. Punk on the UFC 225 main card and that it actually belonged on the UFC Fight Pass early prelims. White also said Jackson would not get another shot in the Octagon.
Jackson isn’t exactly bothered by White’s words.
“It’s his opinion,” Jackson said. “That’s all I got to say about that. If that’s what he chooses to think and feel, it’s on him. Dana White is like a little school girl. He’s emotional. Sometimes, he’s feeling his feelings and he likes to make these little outbursts like a little kid. It doesn’t hurt my feelings.”
Jackson also received lots of criticism from fans on social media for the same reasons, mostly the showboating one. Jackson just thinks they are following in White’s footsteps. He doesn’t care about the outcry, nor does he feel overwhelmed by it.
“I’m in a different space in my life. I don’t even really engage with these guys anymore,” Jackson said. “They’re beneath me. They can have their opinions, too; it really doesn’t matter. They’re followers. They listen to Uncle Dana. Dana gets mad, they get mad. Dana’s happy, they’re happy. Or sometimes, it’s like the polar opposite; Dana gets mad, they’re happy, and vice versa. You never know what’s gonna happen with fight fans. Fight fans are just as emotional as Dana.
“I know how to handle it. … I’m cool with it.”
However, the negative fan reaction still wasn’t exactly something Jackson saw coming.
“I knew I came to the city as a heel, but I didn’t know I was leaving a heel, [too].”
Jackson said he hadn’t been officially released as of Sunday night. But if his UFC career does indeed come to an end in the foreseeable future, he doesn’t mind too much — that’s because fighting isn’t his main revenue source.
“I don’t have to fight,” he said. “I only fight because I love to fight. If I never fight another fight in my life, I’m cool with it. I make more money outside of fighting than I do inside the cage. It don’t matter. … I’m just a squirrel trying to get that nut.”
In his post-fight interview on the UFC 225 broadcast, Jackson mentioned Zuffa Boxing as a possibility in his fighting future. But with anything White-related out the window, Jackson isn’t sure what’s next. But he knows one thing for sure: he wants to get paid — especially with the Punk win now on his record — or else he’s more than happy to focus on his journalism career.
“You gotta come with the right checks,” Jackson said. “I’m the dude who just pitched a beating on CM Punk for three rounds. I got a nice little name right now, so the money has to be right. When the money is right, ‘Truth’ will be there.”