— Updated on 6 December 2023

Bo Nickal: The UFC’s Hottest New Prospect

— Updated on 6 December 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

After his third professional mixed martial arts bout, Bo Nickal has already secured a UFC contract at Dana White’s Contender Series 56.

Submitting the far more experienced middleweight 7-1 Donovan Beard in 52 seconds via triangle choke without even breaking a sweat – nor absorbing any significant strikes – his performance was clinical, dominant, and most importantly, entertaining.

“I literally write notes to remind me [of the fights]. The only note on my paper is, ‘goddamn,'” UFC President Dana White said after Nickal made quick work of Beard.

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“I mean, for a kid who has almost no experience, he took on a guy who’s 6″2′, 7-1 [record], 78-inch reach… the confidence this kid had to roll into the triangle the way he did.”

“Me and a lot of other people are excited to see the future this kid has. Welcome to the UFC.”

As promising as this standalone achievement may sound, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Bo “The Allen Assassin” Nickal is MMA greatness in the making.

Bo Nickal: Decorated Wrestler

It’s rare for someone to enter a sport with a Wikipedia entry as extensive as the one you’ll encounter by googling “Bo Nickal.”

At the tender age of 26, MMA’s hottest new prospect already boasts an extremely successful career as both a collegiate and freestyle wrestler; in addition to all the waves he made back in high school. 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.

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In freestyle wrestling, Nickal claimed the 2019 U23 World Championship and the US Open National championship for his own, while also being a finalist at the 2020 US Olympic Team Trials.

“Considered one of the most accomplished Nittany Lions of all-time, Bo 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 also named the 2019 Big Ten Athlete of the Year.”

Long story short, this dude’s elite.

The Story Comes Full Circle Triangle

What’s even more impressive/terrifying than Bo Nickal’s wrestling pedigree is his ability to develop an MMA toolbox. And we’re not just talking about his striking skillset, either.

Three years ago, Nickal participated in a submission grappling superfight against the indomitable Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Gordon Ryan, which was insane for several reasons.

For one, while you’d assume there’s a massive overlap between wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in a competitive context, they’re almost completely different animals. Bo Nickal entered the lion’s den at Third Coast Grappling 3 with two BJJ training sessions under his belt and a major hole in his overall game, given the lifetime of competition without submissions.

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For another, Gordon Ryan is perhaps the greatest submission grappler of the 21st century. For reference, the five-time ADCC world champion and two-time IBJJF no-gi world champion with a professional record of 152-9 is essentially submission grappling’s answer to prime Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Lewis Hamilton, Roger Federer, etc.

During their encounter, Ryan would defeat Nickal on the mats via what was probably then a foreign concept for the latter: triangle choke. Fast forward to present day and Nickal is now finishing seasoned MMA pros with the very same submission.

“Everyone I’m close with knows what I’m capable of and knows what I can do, but when the time comes, more and more people will continue to jump on the bandwagon,” said Bo Nickal.

“It’s about developing and getting better and sharpening all my skills.

“I’m always going to have a better wrestling base than anybody I fight. But at the end of the day, that’s not going to be enough to become UFC champion and #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, which is my goal. So I need to sharpen my wrestling and all of my other skills.”

Bo Nickal: Future UFC Champion?

Despite it being early days, all signs indicate Bo Nickal has a very bright future in MMA.

From wrestling to work ethic to genetics – Nickal’s father and grandfather were wrestlers while his mother was an amateur boxer – the kid has been dealt an extremely favourable hand.

“That’s what we do, baby. I was born for this and bred for this.”

Beyond that, Nickal is currently training at the storied Dan Lambert-founded gym: American Top Team (the main academy located in Coconut Creek, Florida). ATT has produced champions past and present, including:

  • Mike Thomas Brown (WEC / UFC)
  • Tyron Woodley (UFC)
  • Joanna Jędrzejczyk (UFC)
  • Amanda Nunes (UFC)
  • Glover Teixeira (UFC)
  • Douglas Lima (Bellator)
  • Dustin Poirier (UFC | interim)

… as well as Jorge Masvidal (UFC), Yoel Romero (UFC, Bellator), and Kayla Harrison (PFL).

Bo Nickal: The UFC Has Just Signed A Very Dangerous Man

Furthermore, there’s been a longheld belief that wrestling is the best foundation for a prosperous MMA career, and the result practically speaks for themselves. Think back to all the world-class champions from Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, and Demetrious Johnson, to Henry Cejudo, Kamaru Usman, Daniel Cormier, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and so forth.

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Of course, before he gets a shot at the title currently retained by Israel Adesanya, he’ll have to survive certain tests. Like Australia’s own Robert Whittaker… Jared Cannonier… Marvin Vettori… the heavy-handed Alex Pereira… the reborn Paulo Costa… and potentially the equally-hyped Khamzat Chimaev, who has recently been teasing a move from the welterweight division to middleweight.

“I feel that’s a good matchup,” Bo Nickal himself said of Khamzat Chimaev.

“Obviously, he’s a high-level grappler and a high-level fighter. He’s one of the top fighters not only in the division, but also in the UFC. I have a lot of respect for his skills, but I also know what I’m about.”

“Wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu — as you can see, I’ll take you out anywhere.”

Bo Nickal: The UFC Has Just Signed A Very Dangerous Man

Bo Nickal Mixed Martial Arts Record

Professional MMA Record Breakdown

  • 3-0 (1 knockout | 2 submissions)


  • Donovan Beard – Submission (Triangle Choke)
    Round 1 | 0:52
    Dana White’s Contender Series 56
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    September 27, 2022
  • Zachary Borrego – Submission (Rear-Naked Choke)
    Round 1 | 1:02
    Dana White’s Contender Series 49
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    August 9, 2022
  • John Noland – KO (Punches)
    Round 1 | 0:33
    Jorge Masvidal’s iKon FC 3
    Richmond, Virginia
    June 3, 2022

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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