Bo Nickal reveals wrestling session with Jon Jones before UFC 285


Long before Bo Nickal was winning NCAA championships in wrestling or contemplating a future in MMA, he was a UFC fan. In those days, the future top prospect and two-time Contender Series winner looked at Jon Jones as the kind of fighter he hoped to be one day.

Now that Nickal has made his debut in the octagon, Jones and he will be sharing the UFC 285. card. With a perfect 3-0 record in his career, Nickal was happy when he learned he’d be fighting alongside Jones, who faces Ciryl Gane in the main event.

“Super motivating for me,” Nickal said during UFC 285 media day. I can recall being in fifth or sixth grade and watching UFC events, as well as Jon Jones dismantling people.

“So to be on the same card as him is a big honor. I’m very grateful for that opportunity. I think it’s pretty cool.”

It turns out Nickal had the opportunity to not only meet Jones during fight week, but also wrestle the ex-champ briefly during their final training sessions ahead of Saturday’s card. While Jones did compete in collegiate wrestling at Iowa Central Community College, his accolades in the sport pale in comparison to Nickal, who is a three-time NCAA Division I champion from Penn State.

According to Nickal, he got a taste of grappling with Jones as a heavyweight, but said he still got the better of him on the wrestling mats.

” I was able meet him at the [UFC Performance Institute],” Nickal stated. “He tried to take me down, but I obviously stuffed that and ran around and got behind him and stuff. Again, very grateful to be on the card, and he’s definitely a guy that, his fighting style, I’d like to emulate.

“He had a pretty strong grip, but overall, it was just straight wrestling, so I had a big advantage.”

Nickal will open the pay-per view against Jamie Pickett, in a bout for middleweight. Jones then takes on Gane to close the show and crown the new UFC heavyweight champion.

Nickal, for his part, expects Jones will do well at heavyweight. He anticipates that “Bones”, just as he did during his career at 205 lbs, will walk out of the T-Mobile Arena carrying a title.

“I got Jones, 100 percent,” Nickal said. “No doubt in my mind that he’s going to [win]. Obviously he’s had a long layoff, hasn’t fought in a while, but I think that he’s going to go out there and perform really well. He’s a guy, again, when the pressure’s on, he performs the best, and he just knows how to fight and knows how to win. He is more than a good fighter. I believe he is also able to win. I predict him getting the win and doing it in spectacular fashion.

“He will be fine this weekend. He’ll be a great fighter. A lot of anticipation with him coming up to heavyweight, and I think that he’ll probably put on his best performance ever, just because there’s more pressure and more eyes and he’s a guy that performs when the spotlight’s on him better than anyone.”

Despite UFC 285 being his first promotion with it, Nickal remains the most popular card participant. In fact, he has ballooned as high as a 22-to-1 favorite over Pickett at some sportsbooks.

That definitely sets high expectations for his performance, but Nickal wouldn’t have it any other way.

” No matter what others think, I just want to do the best,” he stated. “That just comes from me and my heart, and what I’m passionate about, so I feel pressure every single day when I go in the training room. I’m obviously training at American Top Team, sparring with really high-level guys, and I just feel like I want to get better and better and better, and keep improving, keep improving. Because I care so deeply about this sport and put my all into it, I am nervous for real fights.

“Now, I get the opportunity to show what I’ve been working on and continue to get better.”