What makes UFC prospect Bo Nickal such ‘a super special athlete’? Coach Mike Brown explains

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What makes UFC prospect Bo Nickal such ‘a super special athlete’? Coach Mike Brown explains

As the longtime head coach of American Top Team, Mike Brown has been around his share of special fighters. But perhaps nobody has reached the level of hype so early in his career as UFC super prospect Bo Nickal.

“I’ve never seen it, but I also know he’s a super special guy,” Brown told MMA Junkie. “He’s a super special athlete, and people know that. He’s performing. He’s executing and performing like you’d expect from a guy like him. So people realize this guy’s ceiling might be off the charts. If you understand the levels there are to wrestling and how tough college wrestling is and the level he was in (that) world, it’s above special. There’s not a lot of guys like this.”

Nickal, 26, is three years removed from a decorated collegiate wrestling career at Penn State University, where he was a three-time NCAA Division I national champion and 2019 Dan Hodge Trophy winner as the nation’s most outstanding wrestler in his final year.

Nickal made his professional MMA debut in the summer and, through his first three fights, has wowed the masses with three first-round finishes, the longest of which lasted 62 seconds. He certified himself as one of the hottest blue-chip prospects in MMA history with a 52-second submission of CFFC champ Donovan Beard on Sept. 27 at Dana White’s Contender Series 56, which earned him a UFC contract.

It’s been as impressive of a start to a pro MMA career as Brown has ever seen.

“At this point, I don’t think anything he’s tried has failed,” Brown said. “Every shot he’s taken, he’s got. Every punch he’s thrown has landed. Anything that’s been thrown at him has missed. So he’s pretty much batting 100 percent, a thousand on anything he’s done.”

After his DWCS 56 win, Nickal wasted no time making a splash callout of Khamzat Chimaev. He’s even started to look toward a future encounter with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

The way Brown sees it, he likes the energy – “but there’s no reason to rush anything.”

“I think it’s important to keep doing things, taking this sport as a professional, taking your time, and making sure there’s no doubt,” Brown said. “In my eyes, I don’t want a competitive fight. I’d like to see it every time, him blowing guys out of the water. Maybe he can beat those guys now, but if he waits a little bit longer, then he blows them out of the water. That’s what we hope for, and that’s what we plan for.”

Everything so far had been smooth sailing, and Nickal was set to officially make his UFC debut in December against Jamie Pickett at UFC 282. That’s on hold, though, after Nickal withdrew due to an injury.

Consider it Nickal’s first bit of adversity as an MMA fighter, which Brown is confident won’t be an issue for his pupil as his career unfolds and as the lights are expected to only get brighter.

“You just don’t get to where he is without being able to do it all,” Brown said. “He’s competed in the sport of wrestling since he was very young and got to the highest of the highs. If you are that type of person, you can overcome adversity. There’s no doubt about it.”

He continued, “I think he’s as level-headed as they come. … He definitely has his head on his shoulders. To be honest, it’s not the norm for MMA fighters. He’s got a really great family, they’re all very supportive, supporting him since a young age. He’s got that side locked down. The mental side, there’s no way this guy gets pulled in the wrong direction.”

What makes UFC prospect Bo Nickal such ‘a super special athlete’? Coach Mike Brown explains