Bo Nickal confirmed he belonged within the UFC seven weeks in the past. Combating on Dana White’s Contender Collection on Aug. 9, he made fast work of an overmatched opponent, choking out Zachary Borrego in simply 1 minute 2 seconds. For that beautiful present of brutal effectivity, Nickal earned a stream of platitudes from White, who referred to him as “wonderful” and “one of many hottest prospects within the sport.”
What Nickal didn’t get that evening from the combat promotion president, although, was a UFC contract.
White made the curious selection to carry off on signing Nickal proper at that second and as a substitute provide the three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion a second tryout on the Contender Collection, which occurs on Tuesday within the present’s season finale (ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET). Followers and pundits alike dissed White’s determination to delay the seemingly inevitable. However Nickal took it in stride.
“I am not right here to get a UFC contract,” Nickal mentioned. “I am right here to be UFC champion, the No. 1 fighter on the earth. That is what’s on the horizon for me.”
If Nickal was searching for approval from his future boss that evening by saying the fitting factor, his resolve to take action has since been examined once more. On final week’s Contender Collection episode, White awarded a contract to a 17-year-old, Raul Rosas Jr.
Certainly the teenager cannot be extra ready for the Octagon than the 26-year-old Nickal, who regardless of being simply 2-0 as knowledgeable, has a glowing resume full of competitors on distinguished levels. Together with successful three particular person NCAA titles and making the ultimate as a freshman, Nickal was a part of 4 straight nationwide championship groups at Penn State. He received an under-23 world championship in 2019 and was a finalist on the 2020 US Olympic workforce trials.
And but Nickal doesn’t begrudge Rosas for touchdown a roster spot earlier than him.
“No, in no way. Everyone is on their very own trajectory. Good for him,” Nickal mentioned final week. “That is a cool accomplishment for him, to be the youngest fighter on the roster. However I’ve a distinct plan for myself and the place I am headed. So what others do within the sport would not have an effect on me. If different folks have success, I am not a hater in any manner. Go forward and do your factor.”
Bo Nickal reveals off his spectacular wrestling abilities as he submits Zachary Borrego with a rear-naked-choke within the first spherical.
So, what’s Tuesday evening’s middleweight combat towards Donovan Beard presupposed to show? It might be a stretch to say White and the UFC organized this second Contender Collection look to check Nickal additional and even to construct up the drama for his entry to the UFC, as a result of few have any doubts about how this combat will finish. Caesars Sportsbook has Nickal as a 16-to-1 favourite — regardless of it being simply his third professional combat. This reserving appears much less about what Nickal can get out of one other Tuesday at UFC Apex in Las Vegas versus the Contender Collection driving Nickal’s coattail on the hype prepare.
Nickal’s arrival within the UFC has been lengthy awaited. Whereas many wrestling greats have gone on to see success within the Octagon, it is usually been a fallback for others, typically with hesitation, in pursuit of a money-making alternative after they’re completed with their singlet. Nickal, nonetheless, has been envisioning an MMA profession ever since he was younger.
“I at all times appreciated preventing,” he mentioned. “Not simply wrestling competitors, both. My buddies and I might bare-knuckle combat one another for enjoyable on the playground. That was part of my each day life that I at all times loved.”
What reworked childhood play right into a profession path was the environment surrounding the large MMA fights he would watch on TV. “You’d see this large area full of followers, folks cheering, all of the lights,” Nickal mentioned. “The entire environment was such a cool factor for me to observe. I used to examine myself making that stroll.”
If all goes to plan on Tuesday, Nickal will quickly understand his dream of strolling out to the cage in a packed area. He mentioned he hopes to make his UFC debut at a Dec. 3 Combat Night time on the 18,000-seat Amway Middle in Orlando, Florida, simply upstate from the place he trains at American Prime Crew in Coconut Creek. Nickal has been rounding out his ability set in that fitness center, working with Jorge Masvidal and others on his standup sport.
However make no mistake, Nickal mentioned: If he fights within the UFC, he won’t neglect the abilities that acquired him there.
“There have been some nice wrestlers in MMA, however typically I’ve seen them abandon their wrestling and get into brawls. That is not going to be me,” Nickal mentioned. “Anyone I combat for the remainder of my profession needs to be ready for a wrestling match. Whoever I am going towards, I can seize them and throw them to the bottom anytime I need to. In order that’s one thing that each single man must be ready for. For me, I am sticking with my roots, and I imagine that is the trail that may make me No. 1 within the sport.”