Three-time NCAA Division I National Champion and American Top Team (ATT) wrestling coach Bo Nickal made his highly-anticipated mixed martial arts (MMA) debut as part of Dana White’s weekly “Contender Series” program last night (Tues., Aug. 9, 2022) inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Despite his inexperience in cage fighting, Nickal entered the contest as the -3500 betting favorite and went on to justify that line, steamrolling fellow up-and-coming fighter Zachary Borrego in just 62 seconds. White was impressed by the “incredible” performance — but not in any rush to sign the wrestling icon.
“He’s 1-0, 2-0 now, fought a kid that was 3-0, made it look really easy,” White said during the “Contender Series” post-fight press conference (watch it here). “Let’s get him one more fight and let’s test him; gets past that with flying colors, we bring him in and we give him a fight in the UFC. I think only one guy has come in at like 1-0 and did anything and I think it was Brock [Lesnar], and to be honest with you, I don’t remember. Brock was something like that. So, yeah, he’s a stud.”
Lesnar joined the promotion with just one MMA fight to his credit, which is exactly one more fight than Phil “CM Punk” Brooks had when he embarrassed himself at UFC 203 back in late 2016. And let’s not forget about boxing legend James “Lights Out” Toney and his stellar 0-0 record that was good enough to earn a UFC contract.
“I don’t know what else he could have done to look any better,” White continued. “He looked incredible. The only reason I didn’t sign him tonight is because he’s 2-0 now. We got eight more weeks of this. Why not have him fight here again? It just makes sense.”
After his quick submission win over Borrego, the 2-0 Nickal — who also holds two wins on the amateur circuit — called for a UFC contract to go along with the agreements handed out to fellow “Contender Series” winners Clayton Carpenter, Erik Silva, and Jamal Pogues. That said, not everyone on location was ready to board the Nickal train just yet.
“Listen, he’s chasing the money, and rightly so,” said cageside commentator Michael Bisping. “Bit of caution, though. Just because you can wrestle, just because you’re doing that on the ‘Contender Series’ doesn’t mean you can come in here and beat the best fighters in the world. I’ve trained with many a great wrestler, guys almost as accomplished as him, and against the fence, it’s a different world. Of course, the man’s going to have a sensational career. But slow your roll a little bit, buddy.”
Nickal’s return date has yet to be determined.