Bo Nickal has big aspirations for his MMA career.
The three-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler turned heads over the weekend for his spectacular performance in his professional MMA debut. After going 2-0 as an amateur, Nickal needed just 33 seconds to score a highlight-reel knockout over John Noland on Friday night at IKON FC 3, and he didn’t even use a single takedown to do it.
At age 26, Nickal is just getting started in MMA. But he already has goals of dominating the sport in the same way he dominated wrestling in the collegiate ranks.
“I’m out to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound-fighter in the world. So that’s what I want to do, that’s what I’m here here to do, and that’s what I’m going to accomplish in the next five years,” Nickal said Monday on The MMA Hour.
“That’s where I will be, without a doubt, within half a decade. ... No doubt in my mind. I think that it’s a long path. There’s a lot of things that can happen in five years. That’s a long time, especially in the MMA world. I’m not ignorant, I’m not oblivious, I’m not one of those dudes that says all this crazy stuff. I think these are realistic goals for me. I don’t ever set a goal out and just say it to say it, like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be world champion,’ or this and that. Like, that’s something that I’ve thought long and hard about — not only what I want to do, but the timeline behind it too. And I feel like that’s a feasible accomplishment for me.
“Considering the amount that I put into this sport, the amount of energy that I put into my training and how disciplined I am, and again, having the right people around me, I think that’s absolutely doable,” Nickal added, “and I know for a fact that I will do that.”
Nickal is off to a good start. The Pennsylvania State University alum rocked Noland with a blistering sequence on Friday night that began with a hard right hand and ended with a three-punch combination that sent Noland plummeting to the canvas.
Nickal’s wrestling credentials already made him one of the top prospects in MMA heading into the fight, but few people expected him to look as comfortable on his feet as he did.
“I’m going for finishes every single fight. So I think a guy that — especially early in his career — had a lot of finishes was Jon Jones,” Nickal said. “And he had diversity, too. Obviously my wrestling accolades were a lot better than his, but he stopped wrestling really young. I stopped wrestling at 25. He stopped wrestling at what, 20? Something like that. So I think he could’ve been that type of athlete in wrestling had he stuck with it too.
“So I see myself emulating a lot of his attacks, of his styles. We’re both long guys, explosive, powerful. And he was out there just finishing dudes, whether that was with strikes, elbows, kicks, knees, submissions — and that’s kind of how I see myself too. Because to be that No. 1 pound-for-pound that I want to be, I can’t go out there and take a dude down and hold them down for five minutes. Like, I’ve got to smash every single guy I fight. So the guys that did that are the guys that I’m trying to emulate that style.”
Of course, Nickal is just scratching the surface of his potential. He’s spent much of the last year learning the ropes of MMA under the tutelage of the minds at ATT, and he’s honest in his assessment of where his striking is now compared to where he eventually wants it to be.
“Relative to my wrestling, it’s like a zero,” Nickal admitted. “And relative to where I think it’s going to be in two, three, four years — it might as well be a zero. I’ve been training, again, less than a year, 10 months, and I’ve made a lot of developments. And I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m a world-class striker, because I’m not, but I know where I will be soon in a few years. And the amount of energy that I put into this, I don’t think people can match that. I think I’m gaining on everybody every single day.”
Nikal said he’s received interest from several major MMA organizations in the days since his pro debut went viral. He isn’t sure yet when he’ll return, but he’s hoping to have several more opportunities to gain actual experience inside the cage before 2022 is over.
“I don’t have a date yet, but my management team and I are working on it,” Nickal said. “I want to get as many fights as possible by the end of the year. I didn’t think after this fight that I would get as much attention as I did, as far as like organizations wanting to help out and get me fights, because they’re like, ‘Yo, whatever we’ve got to do to just get the dude more experience, get him fights, we’ll do it.’ I kind of thought [it’d be] like, oh, we’re still going to be in slow-play mode, where we’re going to have to figure this out ourselves.
“[So] it’s looking like August. Hopefully the first couple of weeks in August, then I can turn around and fight again in September.”