The UFC continues its stretch of action this weekend as Jessica Andrade makes her return to the strawweight division to battle Brazilian brawler Amanda Lemos. Opening the card, Mike Jackson makes his return after four years off to face Irish newcomer Dean Barry. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackson, but before we dive into that, let’s see how Jackson and Barry size up.
Mike Jackson vs. Dean Barry:
Mike Jackson (0-1, 1NC, 0-1 1NC UFC) is a bit of an anomaly as a fighter. Initially brought on to fight Mickey Gall and make his pro debut, Jackson lost by a round one rear-naked choke. Jackson then made his second professional appearance in 2018, dominating CM Punk in a performance that he was heavily criticized for as he chose not to finish his opponent, whom he heavily outmatched. That fight was later overturned to a no-contest after Jackson tested positive for Marijuana.
Dean Barry (4-1 overall, 0-0 UFC) finally makes his UFC debut and is hoping to join Ian Garry in the next wave of Irish UFC talent. Barry was initially set to make his UFC debut against Jackson in 2021, but VISA issues prevented him from being able to get to the US. With all four of his professional wins coming by knockout, Barry is hoping to make a name for himself in his UFC debut on Saturday.
Interview with Mike Jackson:
Danny Podolsky: So first off, how did this fight come together and how have you been training for Dean Barry?
Mike Jackson: To my understanding, Dean Barry’s team picked my name from their list of opponents and we had been going back and forth on DMs so this fight made sense. I don’t know what’s so special about him to be honest, other than that they signed and they want me to fight him. I’m not sure if he has some connection to Conor [McGregor] because he’s Irish, but it’s a solid matchup that makes sense for us both.
Training has been going very well for me; I’ve just been in the gym everyday and staying consistent. I’ve been sharpening things and adding to the toolbox and getting ready, so I’m prepared.
Podolsky: For your first fight, they hand-picked you as someone to fight Mickey Gall, despite your having never fought in MMA. The UFC tends to matchmake you with debut fighters or notable prospects, so is that frustrating for you at all?
Jackson: I’ve thought about it and honestly I’m not too concerned about it if I’m being honest. For me, I’m just doing this because I enjoy fighting and it just so happens that I get to enjoy fighting in the UFC. It’s cool and like I said, I’m enjoying it because I just like fighting and this fight makes sense for me.
Podolsky: What is it like getting the chance to fight CM Punk, and having all the hype coming into that fight?
Jackson: For me, CM Punk being a celebrity doesn’t do anything for me. From where I come from and with my background, he was just another person to me anyways. The thing is, while it was a fight, for me it felt more like a sparring match or an exhibition. It’s not that I didn’t take that fight seriously, but rather, I did what I felt like doing that night. I didn’t have to go out there and kill this kid, but I went out there and did what I had to do. He clearly didn’t belong there and I didn’t want to beat him up to the point where it was life-changing, and that’s what I did that night. For me, it was just sparring in front of a bunch of people who didn’t like me.
Podolsky: Did it motivate you more going into that fight knowing that everyone was rooting for CM Punk?
Jackson: Not at all because I knew exactly what that fight was for me. They can root for CM Punk all they want, but that wouldn’t have mattered and none of that would have changed the outcome of that fight. When I walking out, the boos were deafening to the point where I couldn’t even hear my walkout song. So I started the hand-motion as if I was eating up the boos, just taunting the fans right back as they were taunting me.
Podolsky: After that fight Dana White said he sees you as 0-2 and that you would likely not get another chance in the UFC. So were you surprised when they asked you to fight Dean Barry? What is your relationship like now with Dana?
Jackson: Honestly it doesn’t surprise me what he said and I think Dana was just talking. We all know that Dana is an emotional guy and he has no filter. In that moment, these people really wanted CM Punk to win and thought he was going to win. There’s no other reason they would have put me in there with him unless they thought he was going to win. In their mind, they wanted Punk to win because it would continue to generate money for them.
Even before CM Punk fought Mickey Gall, I said Punk fighting Gall was the best case scenario, because Mickey was just going to take CM Punk down and submit him. I said, I’m going to go in there and beat up CM Punk and show that he doesn’t belong in the UFC. In this case, CM Punk did not have the skills to do anything in a real fight.
He didn’t have any legitimate skills to be able to beat me. That fight was sparring for me; I didn’t hit him with anything harder than a 50% shot. When I hit him with a 50% shot in the first round, I felt his feet caving in and I realized this was not a fair fight. There’s a difference between someone who is a bad fighter, and someone who can’t fight.
CM Punk can’t fight. When I realized that, I said ok, then let’s just go in there and beat him up because I didn’t want to knock him out and hurt him. I guarantee you that I hit CM Punk the hardest that he had ever been hit in his life, outside of maybe in pro wrestling.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images