Bryce Meredith has high expectations for himself, just like longtime friend Bo Nickal, but he’s also smart enough to realize that they may not walk the same exact path.
A three-time All-American wrestler from the University of Wyoming, Meredith was already considered a top prospect from the day he decided to try MMA. Thus far, he’s put together a perfect 3-0 record. Now he’s set to make his Bellator debut Friday at 135 pounds.
While they didn’t go to college together, Meredith looks at Nickal almost like family, and has been incredibly impressed by the fast rise of the former Penn State standout only three fights in his career. Meredith also understands that Nickal’s trajectory is anything but common, even for incredibly talented athletes, but he’s been happy to watch and learn from his friend’s rapid ascension.
“Obviously with Bo, he’s on a rocket ship that doesn’t come around very often,” Meredith told MMA Fighting. “A lot of things have to line up perfect, and then him with the talent and of course the way that he has won. Sometimes those media rocket ships, they just happen to people. Sean O’Malley, it happened for him. Most of the time that rocket ship doesn’t pick people up, so it’s been fun watching Bo on that rise.
“But it’s a lot of pressure, too. When you’re on the main card in your third fight and you haven’t even been punched in the face yet, there’s pressure in that and there’s fear in that. Me and him have talked a lot about that. He’s been one of my best friends and brothers since we were 10 years old. We’ve spent a lot of time conversing about this.”
Unlike Nickal’s first UFC experience, Meredith debuts as part of the preliminary card at Bellator 293. But that’s a perfectly fine spot to fight in his first appearance in the promotion.
Meredith admits that he struggles at times dealing with his own expectations and promises versus the time he knows he needs in the cage before making any dramatic leaps with his career. That’s why competing on the prelims gives him the perfect opportunity to get his feet wet, rather than diving head-first into the deep end of the Bellator pool.
“I believe I can compete with a lot of the top dudes at 135 right now, and I know that to be a fact because I train with four dudes who are in the UFC at 135 in my gym,” Meredith said. “I’ve trained around the best dudes in wrestling and MMA since the beginning. So I know where I stand on this list.
“Of course, I know I need more experience. People throw wild stuff in fights. There’s wild s*** in fights and you have to turn your eyes to, and the only way you learn that is by being in fights. Getting dropped, having somebody on your back choking you out, and you have to get out. Those are all things you have to learn through the fire. That’s just experience.”
Despite acknowledging those facts, Meredith is still happy to make a rapid rise up the ranks if he becomes a bankable attraction for the Paramount-owned promotion.
Of course, Meredith also knows that there’s compensation that comes along with those higher-profile fights, and he’s well aware that with greater risk should come bigger rewards.
“If they want to fast track me and pay me the money, I’m in,” Meredith said. “But you don’t want to get fast-tracked for low money. Bo’s in that same situation, too. You don’t want to go, ‘I’ll fight Israel Adesanya next fight,’ on a contract for a $50,000 paycheck or whatever he’s making. I think that’s how you have to play it.
“If you want to fast-track me after, say, two fights, I wouldn’t mind having two fights and then let’s get going, make a run for that top 10 and get that belt, and hopefully they have another grand prix in another two years and I can win the belt and that million dollars.”
That’s a lot to consider for a guy who hasn’t even set foot in the Bellator cage, but Meredith knows where he should eventually fit in the upper echelon of the bantamweight division.
It may sound cliché, but Meredith also abides by the old saying that his career is a marathon, not a sprint, so he’s happy to go at whatever pace will get him to the top.
“You try to be patient and realize that it’s a slow game and I can do this until I’m freaking 37 if I wanted to,” Meredith said. “I’ve got 10 more years. I don’t have to rush — but you want it.”