Bo Nickal only has two professional fights on his record, but he already believes he’s ready to beat the best UFC fighters.
As a three-time NCAA Division I National Champion in wrestling, the 26-year-old Penn State alum has an almost unmatched athletic pedigree coming into MMA. But he’s still a novice by comparison to fighters who’ve competed for several years at the highest level of the sport.
Still, Nickal has every belief that even with his relative naivety in combat sports that he could conquer middleweights with far more experience than him — including reigning UFC champion Israel Adesanya.
“I would love that fight,” Nickal said about Adesanya on The MMA Hour. “That’s like a dream matchup for me. Obviously with all due respect, he’s one of the greatest middleweights of all time, a great champion, but I think people say this a lot — styles make fights.
“With that being said, I feel confident in that matchup. I feel very good about it, and I would love to have that fight at some point in the future. That would literally be a dream for me.”
While it seems highly unlikely that Nickal would actually cross paths with Adesanya any time soon, he knows that just based on his wrestling alone that he would give “The Last Stylebender” a lot of headaches in the cage.
That’s why he’s willing to consider Adesanya as a winnable fight, even before he actually signs a deal to begin competing alongside him in the UFC.
“I would be absolutely confident in that fight [right now],” Nickal said. “That’s a fight to me, I’ll say again styles make fights, and I would be extremely happy with that matchup right now.”
The same goes for anybody currently occupying a spot in the UFC’s top-10 rankings at 185 pounds.
“The No. 1 critique I hear is, ‘He hasn’t fought anybody,’ this and that,” Nickal said. “Cool. I’m 2-0, I’ve trained for one year, and I know what I can do. I know the guys I get to work with at American Top Team are absolutely world-class. I feel confident in my abilities. There’s never been a collegiate wrestler with the accolades I have that transitioned into the UFC at my age with my upside.
“That being said, I don’t really see anybody really stopping me from doing what I want to them at the end of the day. I’ll respect the process and continue to build and get experience and make sure when the moment comes that I’m ready to go. I’ll let my manager and the UFC handle who I’m fighting, but I know what I can do, and if you put me against any of those guys now, it’s not going to be too much fun for them.”
Because he’s so young in the sport, Nickal acknowledges he still has a lot of work to do before he can consider himself a truly well-rounded fighter. But thanks to his wrestling, he already has the ultimate equalizer against any opponent. Without adding much else to his game, he believes his ability to take anybody down whenever he wants could carry him quite far.
“I don’t think there’s really a limit,” Nickal explained. “I don’t think there’s a ceiling at this point, especially at middleweight. It’s not like I’ve got a bunch of NCAA wrestlers in there that are going to be able to stuff my takedowns.
“What’s a guy supposed to do? I’ve trained my whole life to take people down and a guy that’s never done that before, never felt anybody like me, how are they supposed to stop me? They’re going to train for eight weeks and wrestle and that’s going catch them up with where I’m at? No, there’s no logical progression of how they’re going to stop me from doing what I want to them. I think at the end of the day, if I want to do that to a guy, it doesn’t matter who they are, I’ll do it to them.”
After laying waste to Zack Borrego in his first Contender Series fight, Nickal now has a second matchup booked against Donovan Beard on Sept. 27. The expectation is that a win will earn him a UFC contract.
On paper, Beard is a tougher test with a 7-1 record, including a title win in his previous outing under the Cage Fury Fighting Championships banner. None of that seems to worry Nickal.
“Just because he’s a legit 7-1 doesn’t mean I’m not going to be a -5000 [favorite],” Nickal said. “Come on, let’s get real here. Let me ask you a question — you put me against a top 10 guy in the UFC right now what are the odds? Seriously what am I opening in that fight [against Darren Till]? That’s just the facts.”