Immediately after his win, the 27-year-old prospect announced his wife’s first child and plan to take time off for hunting trips. In theory, Nickal could rush back for another fight or two before the end of 2023. But it turns out that’s the last thing he cares about when it comes to his career trajectory.
“There’s a chance [I don’t fight again this year],” Nickal revealed on The MMA Hour. “I could easily fight two more times. I could fight next week if I wanted, but for me, everything that I’m training for and preparing for is my 10th title defense down the road. I’m not preparing for my next fight. That’s my mindset always, so I’m going to do what prepares me best for 10 title defenses.
“Of course, the more I fight with less time in between fights, the bigger the hype grows and stuff. But that’s honestly to me pretty irrelevant. I don’t care about hype, or how much people are talking about me. I’m just here to fight.”
While that kind of time off could curb Nickal’s plans to work his way into the middleweight rankings by sometime next year. But he’s also quick to point out the activity he’s kept over the past year.
Nickal just turned pro back in June 2022, and barely 13 months later, he’s already put together a perfect 5-0 resume with two wins in the UFC and two wins on The Contender Series. All of his wins came in the first round.
Regardless of that, Nickal has put a lot of time and effort into his training camps, so he’s content with possibly pumping the brakes right now.
“Like I announced, my wife is pregnant, and I want to make sure I’m there for her,” Nickal explained. “I also have in September a bunch of hunting trips planned. I’m going to be in New Mexico, I’ll be in Alaska, I’ll be in Colorado, and I’m running all around. We’ll see.
“It’s definitely possible that I fight again this year but I’m going to be in the gym getting better. I’ve had five fights in the past 13 months, which is quite a few, so I definitely want to just continue to get better and develop and improve. So we’ll see what makes sense.”
Nickal is adamant that he’s got plenty of time to grow and develop in the UFC, which is the same reason he’s not calling out top 15 ranked opposition just yet.
“I’m not in a rush,” Nickal said. “We’ll get there. We’ll get to where I want to be in due time. For me, I’m 27, I’ve probably got another eight years of prime fighting. Even up to 35, I think I’ll still be in my prime, because of my discipline, and my work ethic, and my commitment inside the cage and outside. I’ve got a long time to keep competing. So for me, it’s no rush. I’m 5-0. Whoever the UFC gives me, whoever Dana [White] and Hunter [Campbell] decide that makes sense for me to fight then I’m ready to go. But I’ll get the belt and achieve my goals in due time. Right now, I’m not in a rush.
“I could be fighting a ranked opponent by [International Fight Week 2024] but it’s interesting because once I fight a ranked guy and finish that guy in the first round, then it’s like the rocket ship is all the way up to the top quick.”
Long term, Nickal has goals he absolutely wants to attain. But that’s also why he’s keeping his eye on the bigger picture.
“I’m here to go down as one of the greatest of all time and end my career as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” Nickal said. “Everything else, in regards to social media hype, really means nothing to me.”