Mike Jackson was trying to get some deep dish pizza in Chicago when his phone blew up. It was hours after a victory over CM Punk at UFC 225 on Saturday night and Jackson was looking to celebrate the highest profile fight — and win — he’s ever been in.
Then UFC president Dana White took the dais at the post-fight press conference and lit into Jackson, which lit up Jackson’s phone with notifications. White was furious with what he interpreted as Jackson showboating and not finishing CM Punk when he could.
Jackson, in his defense, said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he was not trying to mock or taunt CM Punk at all. And he doesn’t get at all where White is coming from.
“It was one of those things, I was confused,” Jackson said. “All I kept hearing was I was taunting and showboating. Look, that’s not my character, that’s not my style. So I was confused by all of this. And then I hear what Dana White is saying, he’s running his mouth. Look, I know Dana is emotional. He’s like a little girl sometimes and he gets in his feelings. But when you have a platform like that, you need to take a step back, you know? And I just didn’t understand it.”
Jackson, 33, admitted he did “carry” CM Punk in the fight. He said he wanted the first-round knockout and if he didn’t get it, he wanted to put a sound enough beating on Punk that he’d realize that MMA was not for him. Jackson said his goal was to never do any serious damage to Punk — just to teach him somewhat of a lesson.
“Plan B was to just beat him up,” Jackson said. “And I told everybody beforehand all I want to do is beat him up nice enough where he doesn’t want to do this anymore. And that’s what I did. I never wanted to hurt the guy. What I learned through all of this is that Dana White and MMA fans, you guys are savages, man. They wanted me to give this dude some severe CTE. And I was like, this guy has a family to feed, he has someone to go home to and I would feel bad. I sent him to the emergency room with just the bumps and the bruises and the cuts on his face. And they wanted me to give this dude like severe brain damage. And I’m not about that life. I guess fighting isn’t really meant for me, I don’t have that savageness like I used to when I was younger.”
Punk was taken to the hospital afterward with potential injuries to his face, but was later cleared and released. The former WWE star, whose real name is Phil Brooks, was in his second fight in the UFC. In the first, he fell by first-round submission to Mickey Gall, who beat Jackson to earn the right to be the opponent in Punk’s UFC debut.
Jackson didn’t have much MMA experience coming in, either, but he has a winning record in professional boxing and kickboxing. It was clear early on that Jackson was the better fighter. And White thought he should have gotten CM Punk out of there, rather than allowing him to hang in. White was particularly upset about Jackson’s conduct when he was in top position, looking away from Punk and hitting him with bolo punches to the body. White saw that as showboating.
“I got the sense that he’s a complete f*cking idiot and I couldn’t wait for that fight to end and I regretted not putting it on Fight Pass,” White said. “That’s how I felt about it.”
But Jackson said he was not trying to taunt. He said he was trying to distract Punk — and it worked. The punches landed.
“Again, Dana White is an emotional cat,” Jackson said. “And sometimes he says things in the heat of the moment. He doesn’t really have a filter — we all know that. He gets in his feelings and he runs his mouth. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
“He’s almost sh*tting on his own product. He needs to have somebody write his lines for him or something. Like, hey you need to calm down a little bit before you go do these press conferences.”
Jackson does admit that he took the fight longer than it probably should have gone, because he didn’t want to do lasting damage to Punk and because he knew this could be his only chance at fighting in the Octagon. White said afterward that he won’t be asked back.
“We’re both entertainers and I went out there and entertained,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if I’m gonna fight in the UFC, so I wanted to get my 15. If I couldn’t know him out in the first round and get the highlight reel, I wanted to maximize my time in the Octagon. And I did that with 15 minutes.”
What surprised Jackson most, he said, was that White and fans really wanted him to go out there and put Punk out quickly. He said Punk’s heart “could fill the United Center” and it wasn’t that easy. White and Punk are personal friends, too.
“I respect Phil 100 percent — before, after and during the fight,” Jackson said. “It’s like I never wanted to hurt this guy. But Dana White and the MMA fans, they wanted this dude dead.”