One of the goals Mickey Gall had when he got into the UFC was to fight Diego Sanchez. So, when Gall received the call that he would be taking on one of his heroes at March's UFC 235, he couldn't contain his excitement.
"I couldn't believe I was fighting Diego F'n Sanchez," Gall proudly told Sporting News.
But it almost didn't come to be for Gall, who returns on Saturday to face Salim Touahri in the featured prelim at UFC Newark. Two weeks before the fight of his dreams, Gall's body gave out on him.
"I was sick," Gall admitted. "I was aspirated which dehydrates you when you have to do the natural dehydration of making the weight. It was a little bit too much dehydration of my body. My kidneys shut down and I ended up suffering from kidney failure. I probably should have been laid up in a hospital bed that week. Instead, I went and marched into the arena and fought Diego Sanchez."
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Gall stepped into the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at less than his best. While cutting weight to make the 171-pound limit for non-title bouts at welterweight, Gall passed out. Somehow, though, Gall picked himself up and tipped the scales at 170.5.
Knowing he wouldn't be close to 100 percent, the man famously known for defeating CM Punk in the pro wrestler's MMA debut knew he'd have to make quick work of the former "The Ultimate Fighter" winner. It wasn't meant to be, though, as Sanchez won by second-round stoppage.
"I was struggling for balance one minute into the fight," Gall said. "I thought I needed to knock Sanchez out within the first minute. It was a little frustration mixed in with panic and confusion."
The result turned out to be the best thing for the 27-year-old, as he got sent to a local hospital and spent the next eight days in the facility because of kidney failure. Doctors told Gall that he only had 50 percent function of his kidneys and shouldn't have taken the fight.
The question on people's minds after hearing that would be why risk your livelihood for a fight?
"It never crossed my mind to quit," Gall defiantly said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. When you’re a fighter, and you got that fighters heart like, you never give up. I have that mindset that I don’t look past my fight date. It’s like the end of the Mayan calendar to me. That’s everything. I’ve worked hard for everything I have. I’ve never thought about pulling out of a f—g Diego Sanchez fight. That was a dream come true.
"I was going to show up there in whatever condition I was in. You have to be all about yourself for those 15 minutes when fight time comes. I signed the contract and I was going to show up. I was talking about it. I had people coming. I was going to go out there and perform. I absolutely thought until the very end that I was going to figure out a way to win."
After Gall was released from the hospital, it didn't take long for him to start feeling like his old self. Gall went through the gauntlet in seeing a series of doctors to get a clean bill of health to ensure it wasn't going to be a life-threatening issue. Thankfully, everything came out well for Gall and he got cleared to compete. Going through the traumatic experience made Gall wonder if he'd step inside the Octagon ever again and gave him a new outlook on things.
"I was also a little worried because I wasn’t sure if this was an isolated incident or if I had actual kidney issues," Gall said. "So I had to go and make the rounds with the doctors and was able to ease my mind and realize this was only an isolated incident. I just was crazy dehydrated and can go back to doing what I love. But at that moment in the hospital, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to be able to fight again. That’s given me a good perspective going forward."
With the bad luck behind him, Gall (5-2) can get back to what he does best. Gall returns to his roots, as the venue of Saturday's event, the Prudential Center, is 36 minutes from his hometown of Green Brook, N.J.
Considering what happened just a few months ago, Gall is thankful for the opportunity and looks forward to making the fans in his home state proud.
"It’s an honor," Gall said. "I feel blessed and I’m happy to be here. I’m really excited to fight at home. These are my people. New Jersey is my people. I’ve been all over the world, but there’s no place like Jersey."