Bo Nickal: ‘I’m the best wrestler that’s come into the sport of MMA’ (2024)

There’s a thin line drawn between confidence and co*ckiness but Bo Nickal knows exactly where he falls when addressing the pedigree he carries into his first professional fight.

The three-time NCAA Division I National Champion wrestler has attracted a lot of eyeballs since first declaring his intention to crossover to mixed martial arts following the last Olympic cycle in 2021. While he’s certainly not the first high level wrestler to become a top MMA prospect, Nickal believes there’s something about his style and the tenacious way he always attacked the mats that separates him from everybody else.

“Wrestling’s in my blood,” Nickal told MMA Fighting. “My grandfather wrestled in college. My father wrestled his whole life and coached his whole life. For me, I take a lot of pride in being a wrestler and I know at the end of the day, it’s almost a little sad for me because I did have to stop my wrestling career early.

“I’m 26 years old and I stopped wrestling at 25. To stop that early, I had to lose a little bit of myself but I knew moving into the sport of MMA was what I was being drawn to and what I was more passionate about.”

While Nickal acknowledges that he still has a lot to learn about MMA considering he started training full time less than a year ago, he has no doubts when it comes to his wrestling even when compared to the best of the best who came before him.

That’s why the Penn State standout can’t help but flaunt his dominance in the sport that now serves as a launching pad to his new fight career even as he continues to root for every other wrestler competing alongside him.

“Coming in now, I know that undoubtedly in my opinion, I’m the best wrestler that’s come into the sport of MMA skill wise and I think my skills translate really well,” Nickal said. “Any high level wrestler in the sport, I have a ton of respect for you. I’m going to be rooting for you.

“I don’t want to take anything away from anybody, of course. Any high level wrestler, I’m rooting for you but at the same time, I feel confident in myself and I know what I’m capable of and I know what I can do. Not only in MMA and what I would have been able to do in wrestling. So there’s no doubt I’m the best wrestler to have entered the sport and again, not trying to take anything away from the guys who compete. Henry Cejudo, Kamaru Usman, another guy that comes to mind Aaron Pico, he’s a friend of mine, ton of respect for him, I root for all those guys. I want all those guys to win championships.”

Speaking of championships, Nickal has yet to throw his first punch as a professional yet he’s already had coaches and teammates calling him the future of the sport.

His debut comes under the IKON MMA banner where UFC star Jorge Masvidal serves as the promoter and he’s also been a frequent teammate alongside Nickal at American Top Team.

Masvidal has raved about Nickal in the past and he’s certainly not alone in estimating that the four-time All-American will eventually wear gold around his waist.

Now those types of expectations might weigh down some fighters but don’t ever count Nickal among them.

“I’ve kind of always felt that from a young age,” Nickal explained. “When I was 8 years old, people said I was going to be a state champion. When I was in high school, people said I was going to be a National Champion. It isn’t anything new for me. It’s flattering. I feel very honored that people that are very well respected in the sport think that of me already, this early in my career.

“That’s a pretty cool thing but I don’t think anybody puts any more pressure on me than I put on myself. Because I want to win. That’s just my nature.”

To understand just how much Nickal expects out of himself, he doesn’t even believe winning a title in a promotion like the UFC would be enough for him.

In fact, he’s aiming much higher than that.

“For me, it’s not even about being a future champion,” Nickal said. “I want to be the future No. 1 pound-for-pound guy on the planet. I think out of everybody that puts pressure on me, I put the most pressure on me and I want that pressure and that’s what I live for. I live for the big moments.”

Bo Nickal: ‘I’m the best wrestler that’s come into the sport of MMA’ (2024)


Bo Nickal: ‘I’m the best wrestler that’s come into the sport of MMA’? ›

“Coming in now, I know that undoubtedly in my opinion, I'm the best wrestler that's come into the sport of MMA skill wise and I think my skills translate really well,” Nickal said. “Any high level wrestler in the sport, I have a ton of respect for you. I'm going to be rooting for you.

Is Bo Nickal one of the best wrestlers of all time? ›

Considered one of the most accomplished Nittany Lions of all-time, Nickal earned the 2019 Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation's most outstanding collegiate wrestler, was a two-time Schalles Award winner as the nation's best pinner and was also named the 2019 Big Ten Athlete of the Year.

Has Bo Nickal fought in the UFC? ›

Bo Nickal is one year into his UFC career, and the former NCAA wrestling phenom is pretty happy with how things have gone so far inside the Octagon. Nickal's two UFC appearances have seen him submit Jamie Pickett with an arm-triangle choke, then finish Val Woodburn with strikes.

Was Bo Nickal Undefeated? ›

Former Penn State wrestler and three-time NCAA champion Bo Nickal remains undefeated in the UFC after defeating Cody Brundage at UFC 300. Nickal won by submission in round two at 3:38 and begins his UFC career at 6-0, all victories coming from submission or knockout.

Who has Bo Nickal beaten? ›

Bo Nickal Record: 6-0-0
winBo Nickal Val WoodburnUFC 290: Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez Jul. 08, 2023
winBo Nickal Jamie PickettUFC 285: Jones vs. Gane Mar. 04, 2023
winBo Nickal Donovan BeardDWCS 6.10 Sep. 27, 2022
winBo Nickal Zachary BorregoDWCS 6.3 Aug. 09, 2022
2 more rows

How many championships has Bo Nickal won? ›

Bo Nickal was the Texas and Central Region winner of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award in 2014. He was a three-time NCAA champion and four-time finalist for Penn State who helped the Nittany Lions win four team titles.

How long has Bo Nickal trained MMA? ›

Bo Nickal has burst on to the MMA scene with only two years of sport-specific training. Despite not clocking in as many hours as his competitors in the cage, Nickal exuberates confidence which has translated into a perfect 5–0 record, with four of those wins coming inside of the UFC octagon.

How did Bo Nickal win the UFC 300? ›

Former Penn State wrestler and three-time NCAA Champion Bo Nickal won another fight in the octagon by stoppage in round two at 3:38 after he defeated Cody Brundage to kick off the monumental UFC 300 main card.

Does Bo Nickal know Jiu Jitsu? ›

Bo Nickal changes stance on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after training - "I was just going there to mess around" Bo Nickal has proven himself to be one of the most well-rounded fighters currently in the UFC.

Why didn't Bo Nickal go to the Olympics? ›

Bo Nickal, the 2019 U23 World Champion, qualified for the 2020 US Olympic Team Trials, which were postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19. Despite reaching the finals, he faced tough competition from David Taylor, a fellow wrestler at Penn State and 2018 World Champion.

What weight is Bo Nickal in MMA? ›

186 lbs

What weight was Bo Nickal in college? ›

It's no wonder Bo Nickal feels comfortable at the UFC's 185-lb middleweight division after such an exciting run at 184 lbs in college wrestling. In his senior year, Nickal moved to 197 lbs for the last weight class of his competitive college career.

Did Bo Nickal win Olympic gold? ›

Nickal holds three gold medals in the NCAA Division 1 National Championship and other championships as well. He was very close to representing his country at the Olympics, but his friend David Taylor defeated Nickal to rule him out of the championship.

Is Bo Nickal the best college wrestler? ›

While Bo Nickal did experience a few losses throughout his collegiate career, his overall winning record is nothing short of impressive. He finished his career at Penn State with an astonishing 120-3 record, making him one of the most successful wrestlers in NCAA history.

Who did Bo Nickal lose to in the finals? ›

Bo Nickal lost against David Taylor in the best-of-three finals at the rescheduled US Olympic Team Trials in early April 2021. Despite defeating formidable opponents like Carter Starocci, Pat Downey, and Zahid Valencia in the challenge tournament, Nickal was unable to secure a spot in the US Olympic Team.

Why is Bo Nickal famous? ›

Bo Nickal: Decorated Wrestler

Fun fact: he's a third-generation wrestler. During his college years, Nickal earned the title of three-time NCAA Division I National Champion (finalist in 2016) as well as three-time Big Ten Conference champion out of Pennsylvania State University. He was also a four-time All-American.

Why didn't Bo Nickal make the Olympics? ›

Despite reaching the finals, he faced tough competition from David Taylor, a fellow wrestler at Penn State and 2018 World Champion. Nickal lost two matches in a best-of-three, failing to secure a spot on the US Olympic Team.

Who has the most pro wrestling title reigns? ›

Most WWE world title reigns
  • Ric Flair, 16 reigns.
  • John Cena, 16 reigns.
  • Triple H, 14 reigns.
  • Randy Orton, 14 reigns.
  • Hulk Hogan, 12 reigns.
  • Edge, 11 reigns.
  • Brock Lesnar, 10 reigns.
  • The Rock, 10 reigns.
Mar 25, 2024

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