Mike Jackson is still riding high from his win over CM Punk at UFC 225 last month, but his performance wasn't without criticism. Jackson was recently a guest on the Heated Conversations podcast and he spoke to Booker T about people's reactions to his victory.
Jackson defeated Punk via a dominant three-round unanimous decision. Many believed he could and should have finished the fight much earlier, as it looked like he was showboating at times. Jackson said he knew from the moment he stood face-to-face with Punk that it would be an easy fight and he believes Punk didn't know what he was getting himself into. Jackson said he doesn't pay attention to what people said about his performance because they don't know what it's like to compete in the octagon.
"I knew before the fight that it was going to be an easy fight. I said all of this. Everything that happened I said it was going to happen. When I looked in his eyes I saw a nice guy. I saw someone--and I don't think he was trying to prove anything to his fans, he was doing it for himself and that is what you are supposed to do it for. When I went out there and performed I wasn't performing for the fans, I was performing for myself. When guys like [UFC President] Dana White have this criticism I can't let that bother me and get to me because at the end of the day I am the one getting in there and fighting and criticizing me. They aren't in there with me so when I looked into his eyes I saw a man that felt like he was content to where he was and as a fighter in the moment," Jackson said. "Right before we walked out we were in the back, and as I walked out first I am waiting by the curtain and he's probably a good 30 yards away from me. I had raised my hands and said, 'Hey Phil. We touching gloves?' He looked at me and raised his fists like, yeah, we're touching gloves, so that was cool. For him, it was one of those things where he looked like he was content with everything, but even until this day I don't think he knew what he was getting into. I don't think he was prepared for that kind of fight. I told people before the Mickey Gall fight that they were two different fighters. Mickey Gall is going to want to take him down, which he did, and I am going to want to beat him on his feet, which I did, but there's those things like you can't really prepare for getting hit in the face and that was the difference. When I hit him with that jab the first time his eyes lit up and he realized that this fight was different. People who criticize this man have never competed or made that walk."
Jackson said he didn't want to brutalize Punk in front of his family and friends in his hometown of Chicago. He also said a finish over Punk wouldn't have done much for his career, so he showed compassion to ride out the decision. He's received a lot of hate on social media, but he said he's been ignoring the people who criticize his performance.
"I'm still living my best. That is all I can do. That mute and block button works wonders. I know people come at me, but here's the thing, maybe 5-10 years ago I would have went out there and assaulted that man just because of where I was in my life, but I am in a different space right now. For me, I'm not worried about all this negativity that people present. I went out there and fought my fight, and I didn't want to hurt the guy. People are legit upset with me because for not hurting him. People came up to me and said that they are going to start calling me 'Mike the Merciful' because I went out here and I showed compassion for another human being and I didn't want to hurt him because I knew what the circumstances were," Jackson said. "Everyone was looking at this fight as if it were a number-one contenders spot or something like that. It was my WrestleMania, my title shot, but at the same time I knew what it really was. I didn't have to go out there and really hurt the guy in front of his people. I went out there and we put on a show---I think if people would take that theory that I disrespected the sport because I didn't finish him; if you can take that aspect out of it and just appreciate the fight for what it is people would like it more, but people are so caught up in the hype."
Considering Punk's last opponent Mickey Gall was given more high-profile fights after defeating Punk by first-round submission, it's somewhat curious that Jackson didn't think a finish would provide him with future opportunities. In fact, because he chose not to finish Punk, UFC president Dana White said Jackson is likely to never fight in the UFC again. Jackson denied showboating in the fight and said it only looked that way because people couldn't see the strategy behind what he was doing.
"The whole thing about me showboating and taunting--I wasn't doing any of that. What happens is that you have the camera on you in one particular angle and if you are in the arena you are watching through one vantage point so you are not seeing the entire picture," he said. "I had somebody ask me afterwards with the post-fight press conference we talked about it. I had asked one of the reporters whether or not I was showboating in the fight and he said that in the moment it looked like I was, but that he remembered what I had said in the post fight interview, I went back and watched the fight and then I realized where you were coming from. I get it, you can only watch it from that vantage point. That is why you have three judges, just in case someone misses something."
If any portion of these quotes are used, please be sure to credit Heated Conversations with Booker T with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Heated Conversations
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.