After beating CM Punk last Saturday at UFC 225, Mike Jackson doesn’t think the former WWE star should step into the MMA cage again.
Mike Jackson’s first pro MMA win came in a much different setting than where most fighters have their arms raised for the first time.
The welterweight did not win for the first time at a small-time event with only a couple hundred fans in attendance. He didn’t have to sell tickets himself like many regional fighters do, and his first pro win wasn’t in a small hockey arena with barely-working lighting.
Instead, Jackson picked up his first pro win in the world’s largest MMA promotion, live on pay-per-view. The Texas native met CM Punk in the first fight of the UFC 225 main card at a sold-out United Center in Chicago, the former WWE star’s hometown.
More than 18,000 fans went to the card. Jackson had to sign posters during fight week and had a bunch of media obligations. The weigh-ins were a large production. The lights were bright. In other words, it was a big deal.
But luckily for Jackson, he had experienced what it was like to fight in the Octagon before. He made his pro debut in February 2016 in the UFC — something few do — against prospect Mickey Gall. The winner of that fight would go on to fight Punk, who had yet to make his MMA debut at the time. Jackson was choked out in under a minute, and, until last weekend, hadn’t fought in MMA since.
According to Jackson, the lead-up to the Punk fight felt much different than the lead-up to the Gall fight.
“I was ready,” Jackson told BloodyElbow.com. “For me, this was a different feeling than the first one. The first one, there was so many other variables that were in play. But for this one, I prepared mentally and physically for the fight.”
Jackson said he was much less nervous heading into his second UFC bout.
“There are gonna be nerves — look, anybody tells you there are no nerves going into a fistfight, they’re lying to you. I don’t care what level,” he said. “There were nerves, but for this one, they were minimal. I just felt 100-percent confident in my abilities, and I knew I was gonna go out there and show the world what I was capable of doing.”
The bout also marked Punk’s first fight since September 2016, when he lost to Gall via submission in the first round at UFC 203. Of course, there was little tape on Punk for Jackson to study leading up to UFC 225, but he does feel like the former pro wrestler improved his game since his debut.
“We don’t have much to watch, so we don’t know what he’s improved on,” Jackson said. “But I feel he did improve somewhat. You can’t be in the gym for two years and not improve a little bit. So of course he improved, but he didn’t improve to my level.”
After Punk and Jackson both lost their pro debuts to Gall in 2016 in quick fashion, there was quite a bit of criticism from fans towards the UFC, because the promotion put this fight on a pay-per-view main card. But there’s a reason for that: Punk has a major following and sells tickets.
It was a spectacle, and Jackson said he can’t argue that. But he added it did feel like a real fight, too.
“It was a spectacle, but at the same time, I had another man across the cage from me trying to knock me out,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, it was a real fight, no matter what skill level he was at compared to mine. He had a job to do, and so did I, and I was just the better man on Saturday night.”
After Punk’s second loss, the general consensus among fans and media is that he should probably hang up his gloves for good — and not get a third shot from the UFC. He tried the MMA thing for a few years and made some money in defeat, but ultimately, he’ll never be a legitimately-talented fighter — which is perfectly OK.
Jackson agrees that Punk’s time in MMA should be over.
“One hundred percent not,” Jackson said when asked if Punk should fight again. “Look, not to say he can’t get better or anything like that, but this is a fighting sport. You saw what I did to his face. No one needs to go through that again.
“You have to understand that this is a dangerous sport, and it can take years off this guy’s life. He was just fortunate enough that I didn’t hit him with the sleeper — that’s really what it comes down to. He needs to take this L and he needs to call it quits as far as MMA goes.”