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‘It wouldn’t go well for them’ — Bo Nickal confident he out-grapples Pereira, Adesanya

The three-time NCAA Division I National Champion says he would fare well against the current and former champion of the UFC middleweight division. 

Bo Nickal backstage at Contender Series on Sept. 27, 2022.
Bo Nickal backstage at Contender Series on Sept. 27, 2022.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Bo Nickal is confident he would outgrapple the upper echelon of the UFC middleweight division, including current champion Alex Pereira and former champion Israel Adesanya.

Along with the rest of his peers, Nickal watched the recent title fight between Pereira and Adesanya, which saw ‘Po Atan’ dethrone the ‘Last Stylebender’ by fifth-round TKO at UFC 281 this past November. As impressed as he was with their striking, the recent UFC signee was unimpressed with their grappling, an area he has shined in since well before transitioning to mixed martial arts.

During a recent interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, the three-time NCAA Division I National Champion explained why he would favor himself in potential fights against Pereira and Adesanya.

“That’s a relatively, I would say—I’m not going to say [an] ‘easy’ fight because, he’s dangerous. But as far as styles go, that’s a great matchup for me,” said Nickal. “I’ve watched their fight a couple of times and the grappling, you know—the striking exchanges are super impressive, that goes without saying. They’re absolutely elite strikers. But when they get ahold of each other, it’s almost, like, funny.

“I’m like laughing at how they’re moving and what they’re doing and stuff,” continued Nickal. “And maybe they feel that way about me when I’m hitting pads and hitting the bag and stuff. But I just feel like, if I grabbed ahold of either of those guys, it wouldn’t go well for them. And I think everybody knows that, so that’s not something that’s a shocking statement or that’s pretty outlandish, in my opinion.”

Before he can get to fights against Pereira or Adesanya, the Contender Series graduate has to debut in the UFC first. For his first assignment, Nickal shares the Octagon with Jamie Pickett, a fellow Contender Series graduate and UFC veteran.

Though aware of what Pickett can do, the 3-0 prospect is confident he will continue his first-round finishing streak when the pair collide at UFC 285.

“I think you always have to go into a fight concerned,” said Nickal. “I think if you are too relaxed, taking it for granted and overlooking people, then that’s a recipe for disaster. So for me, I would say I’m very concerned, very aware of everything that he’s going to bring. I watch a ton of film and I feel like I’m fully prepared for anything that he has ready for me. With that being said, I’m very confident and I know what I’m going to do out there. I expect to finish him in the first round. If that doesn’t happen, finish him in the second and if that doesn’t happen, finish him in the third, but he’s not making it the full 15 minutes. I’m confident in that.”

UFC 285 goes down on Sat., March 4, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Nickal vs. Pickett serves as the opener of the pay-per-view portion.

About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)

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