Penn State’s Bo Nickal lands UFC contract, expects title opportunity in 2024
Penn State wrestling legend Bo Nickal has taken another significant step in his storied mixed martial arts career. More specifically, Nickal has landed a contract with the UFC, the largest MMA promotion on the planet.
The 26-year-old scored the deal with the company after defeating Donovan Beard in a middleweight bout on Dana White’s Contender Series. It took Nickal only 52 seconds to score the victory over Beard via submission on the triangle choke. The super convincing and rapid victory was enough for White to grant Nickal his UFC dream.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Nickal holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a three-time NCAA national champion. He also won a gold medal at the 2019 U23 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary and at the 2019 U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Nickal has already set the bar high for himself. His first fight is still two months away, but the Penn State sensation already has a timeline in mind for becoming a championship holder in White’s UFC…
During an August interview with Shakiel Mahjouri of CBS Sports (h/t Daniel Mariani of Sportskeeda), Nickal offered 2024 as a time frame for when he’ll hold championship gold around his waist.
“I would say (I’ll be champion by) 2024,” Nickal told Mahjouri. “Obviously we’re not super far away from that, but I mean this game goes fast… I expect to have probably four fights by the end of this year and another four or five next year. So I think by the end of 2023 it’s very feasible to see me at 10-0 and then getting up to where I’m fighting top contenders and getting the title shot in 2024.”
Let’s just say that the young phenom has already caught the attention of 33-year-old veteran Phil Hawes, who holds a Brown Belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a professional record of 12-3 (seven via knockout).
During a recent interview with Danny Segura of MMA Junkie (h/t Kristen King of Bloody Elbow), Hawes said “This ain’t wrestling,” and “I can’t wait to put hands on him.” Hawes, another middleweight fighter, recently lost to Roman Dolidze at UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Allen on Oct. 29. Hawes has won eight of his last ten fights.
35-year-old Alex Pereira is the current holder of the UFC Middleweight Championship. He recently defeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira in Madison Square Garden.
Will Nickal eventually get the dream opportunity of challenging for the UFC Middleweight title? Only time will tell, but one can’t take this away from Nickal: He’s certainly not lacking in self-confidence ahead of his UFC debut.
Bo Nickal’s UFC Debut
The recent UFC signee has withdrawn from his much-anticipated debut against Jamie Pickett at UFC 282 in December due to an undisclosed injury. Nolan King of MMA Junkie was the first to report the now-canceled fight.
The highly anticipated octagon debut of Bo Nickal will now take place in the first quarter of 2023. The promotion is targeting the pairing to meet at the UFC’s event on March 4, which is expected to be a pay-per-view event at a location and venue yet to be revealed.
Pickett will look to get back on track after suffering back-to-back finish losses to Kyle Daukaus and Denis Tiuliulin.