Mike Jackson is a journeyman boxer, kickboxer and mixed martial artist who works in photography and media content and considers his real calling in life "entertainment."
The story of how this 33-year-old Texan, with zero previous professional experience, came to book two fights in the UFC -- the second of which will take place at UFC 225 on Saturday against former WWE star CM Punk -- begins around 2008, whenever it was that Jackson first met Mick Maynard.
Maynard is a matchmaker for the UFC and has been since 2016. Prior to that, he was the president of Houston-based fight promotion Legacy FC. And before that, he operated a fight organization called Lonestar Beatdown. He also owned a small print publication, Maroon Weekly.
And this is where we come full circle. Saturday's UFC 225 pay-per-view offering in Chicago between the winless Punk (0-1) and winless Jackson (0-1) can literally be traced back to a part-time job Jackson had 10 years ago, when he delivered newspapers for Maynard.
"At that time, I was going to Texas A&M in College Station, and he had a newspaper I would deliver around town," Jackson told ESPN. "I was even on the cover once. We had a ring girl contest and did a photo shoot for it. We were spreading the word about MMA around College Station."
Jackson says he and Maynard became good friends. Jackson's first amateur fight took place under the Lonestar Beatdown banner. He also worked as a photographer for Maynard at Legacy FC and produced online content around the events.
In early 2016, a unique situation in the UFC, coupled with the friendship between Jackson and Maynard, led to where we are today. The UFC needed an opponent for a new kid it had picked up by the name of Mickey Gall. The UFC wanted Gall to welcome Punk to the Octagon but needed to find him an opponent to debut against first.
Maynard was not a UFC matchmaker yet, but he had a close relationship with the promotion. He suggested Jackson, and the welterweight fight was booked that February.
As crazy as it sounds, Jackson almost didn't take the fight.
"Well, originally it was presented to me as a Legacy FC fight, where I'd be making $1,000 at best," Jackson said. "I wasn't training. I looked Gall up and saw he was a legit brown belt in jiu-jitsu. I didn't think it was for me. It didn't seem wise. But then they told me it would be in the UFC. My [pro] debut would be in the UFC. I said, 'If that's the case, let's go.'"
Jackson went on to get thoroughly crushed, tapping to a rear-naked choke in just 45 seconds. As planned, Gall went on to Punk, who didn't fare much better, as he lost via rear-naked choke in two minutes.
For the past 18 months, that's been the story. A young, talented prospect made quick work of two opponents who were nowhere near UFC-caliber.
But if you ask Jackson, that was never supposed to be the story. The story was supposed to be about whether CM Punk could develop any skill in MMA. And if he could, how good could he get?
Jackson, who has not fought in MMA since his UFC debut (he has boxed twice), feels he's the opponent for Punk to answer that question against. It's why Jackson mentioned him on social media in 2017 and sent an autographed photo of himself to Punk's gym last Christmas.
The idea of Punk in the UFC was strange to begin with, as was the addition of Jackson. The way Jackson sees it, we might as well see it through.
"Think about the storyline," Jackson said. "I put Gall over with my loss. Then Gall goes and does what he did to Punk. This is now the culmination of it all. I thought this was the right fight to make from the beginning, and now, this is it. This is the big finale."