UFC fans could be introduced to collegiate wrestling star Bo Nickal soon. The three-time NCAA champion from Penn State, who made his MMA debut in spectacular fashion at Jorge Masvidal’s iKON FC this month, has been added to the roster list on the UFC’s website, teasing a potential fight on Dana White’s Contender Series this summer.
Nickal has been touted by Masvidal as a top prospect who could be a “problem” in the UFC. His addition to the roster list was first noted on Twitter by an MMA fan, @hellowhosthat. Freelance writer Chris Ferguson reported on June 29 that he confirmed Nickal will face 3-0 Texan Zachary Borrego, who most recently competed in Fury FC, on the Contender Series. Borrego played college football at Angelo State, according to the team’s website.
Borrego’s team told Ferguson the two will fight on the August 9 episode of the Contender Series on ESPN+, according to TheAllStar.
The 26-year-old Nickal is a Colorado native and has been training at American Top Team in Florida with Masvidal, according to his Instagram page. According to the Nittany Lions’ website, Nickal was 120-3 during his career at Penn State and won national championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
In 2019, Nickal won the Dan Hodge Trophy given to the top collegiate wrestler. Nickal came up just short in his bid to make the U.S. Olympic Team in 2021 and then transitioned to MMA, winning two amateur bouts.
Nickal, fighting at middleweight, knocked out John Noland in 33 seconds at iKON FC on June 3. Nickal, his management team and the UFC haven’t commented about whether he is going to be taking part in DWCS this season. After his first pro victory, Nickal wrote on Instagram, “I’m here. 1-0 in my pro career. Every single 185lber on the planet is on notice. I know who you are, where you live, where you train, your weaknesses, your tendency’s, and I’m coming for you.”
Jorge Masvidal Says Bo Nickal Is the ‘New Future of MMA’
Nickal, who told MMA journalist James Lynch in 2020 that he was helping Masvidal work on his wrestling, has received a lot of praise from “Gamebred.” Ahead of his debut at iKON FC 3, Masvidal told UFC.com, “I’m putting a lot of weight on him, but he’s kind of like the new future of MMA, in a way. He’s got a great wrestling background, he can’t get held down by nobody, and he grew up watching MMA and wanting to do it. He’s already familiar with striking, he’s not foreign to striking like we saw in his last fight.”
I discovered Bo because of wrestling. I’m a huge wrestling fan, love wrestling, love collegiate wrestling even more, to be precise. I saw Bo in New York City, Madison Square Garden, his freshman year competing for the National title. He took second place, but I was so blown away by how he was competing, the moves he was going for, how daring he is and, man, he’s like a knockout artist in wrestling – he’s a pinner. He’s not just going to hold you down; he’s trying to get you out of there and pin you. It’s not by coincidence. I think he holds the record for pins for that weight class he was in or some crazy stat like that. It’s nuts, and what he’s done is impressive. I know he led the country in that weight, for sure. I had my eye on him since his freshman year, then his sophomore year, then his junior year and I was like, ‘this guy’s a beast, bro.’ Then I get to train with him and I’m finding out how into MMA he is. His wrestling style when he gets to MMA is going to translate well.
Masvidal told UFC.com, “I’ve trained with him, not just a handful of times, but a bunch of times, and I’ve seen him with other good competitors closer to his weight; good wrestlers and good MMA guys. He’s different, man. What he does to guys is different. His endurance, his technique, it’s different and he’s already got some pop, as we saw. When you get a guy like that, he’s going to be scary. Forget about just watching fights; there’s not a lot of fights I’d fly out for, but I’ll be there live for this one.”
After his win, Nickal told Onward State, “Every single middleweight on the planet, I don’t care what organization you’re in. UFC, Bellator, PFL — doesn’t matter. I’m coming for all y’all.”
Nickal told MMAFighting in early June, “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. …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.”
Nickal added, “For me, it’s not even about being a future champion. 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.”
Another Highly Touted Wrestler Who Has Dominated in Masvidal’s Promotion Recently Signed With the UFC
Nickal isn’t the only prospect and highly accomplished wrestler from Masvidal’s iKON promotion on a path to the UFC. Egyptian Olympian Hamdy Abdelwahab signed with the UFC on June 27, his team, First Round Management, announced on Instagram. The Greco-Roman wrestler will be the first UFC fighter from Egypt when he makes his debut in the Octagon.
Abdelwahab wrote on Instagram, “Elhamdllah new big step in my life towards my goal thank you every one supporting me and believed in me and I promise all of you inshallah soon i will become the first egyptian champ in the ufc history like i became the first egyptian fighter in the ufc history.”
The 29-year-old Abdelwahab, a heavyweight, has gone 2-0 in iKON, with knockout wins over Matthew Strickland at iKON FC 3 and over Dustin Clements at iKON FC 1. He also has two knockout wins in Masvidal’s bareknuckle MMA promotion, Gamebred Fighting Championship.
Masvidal told WSAV about Abdelwahab, “This is what’s a little bit heartbreaking. We get the guys before they have fights, we bring them on over and then before you know it somebody came and took them. But that’s part of the process. I want these guys to go out there and do their best. … The guy can wrestle, but he likes to fight, man. He’s like, ‘I don’t want any of that wrestling crap. I want to stop that wrestling crap and then I want to punch somebody in the face. Guy’s phenomenal. He’s going to be creating some big, big waves. … We’re here to just push guys and help them get where they want to go.”