Heading into his UFC 217 fight against Randy Brown, Mickey Gall finds himself in a strange position (no, not the Von Flue choke). At only 25 years old, he’s 4-0 in his professional career, and 3-0 in MMA’s premier organization. Yet many hardcore fans, along with his fellow fighters, consider him to be an untested prospect. The whole situation illustrates the weird paradox that is the Mickey Gall hype train.

Mickey Gall Hype Train Heads to UFC 217

Gall’s own penchant for using public call-outs to get high profile money fights has painted him in a corner. He’s gotten into the public consciousness and won some media push by the UFC, but in doing so he’s alienated himself from many peers and “serious” MMA fans.

Kevin Lee made it clear earlier this year this year that he felt Gall was overhyped and undeserving of the media push he’s gotten. Gall responded to Lee’s insults by saying he’d fight him in the gym with no rules.

Gall’s response is telling because it cuts right to the heart of the criticisms leveled against him. The implication in the claims against Gall is that he’s not a “real” fighter. Gall understands this on some level, so instead of going for the “sanctioned-fight” call-out, he goes for an eye-gouging, fish-hooking, groin-shotting gym-rules tilt.

The thing is, there’s no reason to question Gall’s “realness.” UFC hype may not be indicative of substance, but it’s also not indicative of a lack of substance. It’s its own thing, and there’s no rational reason to doubt the validity of a fighter’s talent based on it.

Still, none of that matters in the end. The fact is, many fighters and many fans still believe that Lee has a point. The Mickey Gall hype train, they say, is nothing more than the pumped-up show it appears to be.

Desperado Mickey Gall Hijacks Phil “CM Punk” Brook’s Hype Train

Gall’s rocket trip to semi-stardom started on the Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight reality series, in which he defeated Ron Templeton for the Dead Serious promotion. Then, in his UFC debut, he submitted equally unknown fighter Mike Jackson in 45 seconds. The fight was dubbed the “CM Punk Sweepstakes,” as the winner would be pitted against Phil “CM Punk” Brooks.

Brooks had no MMA chops to speak of, but he brought a wide spotlight with him from his days as a WWE superstar. A training video released in a UFC Embedded clip was so bad that the Internet buzzed with fans saying that it must have been a smoke screen thrown to hide how good Brooks actually was, because he couldn’t possibly be that bad.

But, Brooks actually was that bad, and Gall had him down in seconds. He submitted him with a rear-naked choke a little over two minutes in. Just like that, the Brooks media train crashed into a brick wall. The whole thing was the very definition of a circus fight.

The criticism overshadows the fact that at only 24 years old, Gall showed a remarkable amount of poise in the face of monstrous pressure. He looked relaxed and like he was having fun as he walked to the cage to Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey,” and he handled the fight with a no-nonsense professionalism that was impressive to those less clouded by personal bias.

Mickey Gall Hype Train on Collision Course with Sage Northcutt’s Hair

Gall then called out Sage Northcutt, another recipient of heavy UFC hype. He even called Northcutt’s hair “goofy”…fighting words if ever there were some.

Not surprisingly, Gall’s fight with Northcutt was more competitive that his fight with Brooks had been. He even overcame a little adversity as Northcutt landed a few legit shots. As with all of his pro fights, Gall again won with the rear-naked choke.

Again, however, Gall’s win was a double-edged sword. Though Northcutt had greater legitimacy as a fighter than Brooks, he was still considered something of a paper prodigy pumped up by big hype.

Both of Galls’ biggest fights managed to elevate his wallet and public profile while simultaneously denigrating his status among peers. They cemented him as the teacher’s pet that all the other kids want to smash.

So it is that after successfully situating himself in two big fights and derailing two massive hype trains, Gall still found himself mocked around the fight world. His own self-promotional success worked against him on other levels.

Mickey Gall Hype Train UFC 217 Non-Debut Debut

Gall may be a 4-0 professional fighter, but his impending UFC 217 tilt with Randy Brown feels like a UFC debut. It’s his first UFC fight that has no element of hype or sideshow about it. It’s just Gall against a very tough Jamaican whose most recent fight was a decision loss to Belal Muhammed, one of the more highly touted prospects in the welterweight division.

There are no gimmicks in this fight.

A fair assessment of Gall’s career thus far would be that while the 25-year-old has risen by using a clever strategy of robbing other people’s hype trains, he’s also shown considerable grappling chops and an ability to perform under pressure. He’s also shown some grit, standing up to Northcutt’s technically superior striking and getting the win.

“Fair,” however, is rarely a term used in association with MMA fans. Gall continues to receive heavy criticism leading into this fight. Fighters like Lee have fueled those fires.

Going into his fourth UFC scrap, Gall has all the eyes upon him, yet still has to prove himself. It’s a strange paradox resulting from one of the most unique career trajectories in the sport. It may turn out to be a paradox Gall can’t escape from, or it may be just the beginning of an unforgettable MMA legacy.

Only time will tell if Gall is up to the task. We’ll get some indication in November, 2017, when Gall makes his non-debut debut against Randy Brown at UFC 217.

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