Bo Nickal’s game plan for Khamzat Chimaev: ‘Take him down, rag-doll him, throw him around’

Bo Nickal knows he has Khamzat Chimaev’s attention.

The three-time NCAA champion wrestler and blue-chip middleweight prospect continued his ascent this past Saturday with a second-round submission of Cody Brundage on the pay-per-view opener of UFC 300. The bout marked the first time Nickal has seen a second round in his nascent MMA career, but nonetheless preserved his undefeated 6-0 professional record. All six of those victories have ended in stoppages.

However, one man, in particular, was not impressed: Khamzat Chimaev. The two have traded barbs for much of the past year, and after the bout, Chimaev posted on social media that Nickal’s wrestling was “big bulls***.” Upon seeing it, Nickal was delighted.

“I love it,” Nickal said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “I think the fact that he’s recognizing it, and I think he sees what’s coming too, I think that it’s good for everybody. Good for me, good for him, good for the sport. So we’re going to make that fight happen.

“I would just in response to that like to say, yo, who were you fighting at 5-0, bro? Some random dude in Europe? I’m fighting in the UFC on UFC 300, so there’s levels to this. And I think that people just need to get to know me. The more they get to know me, the more they’re going to realize that, hey, I’m that guy, and there’s nothing anybody else can do about that. I wouldn’t surprised if when we fight, I’m like a -1000 favorite, the same as I’ve been against all these other folks.”

Nickal, 28, has prodded Chimaev over a potential fight since formally joining the UFC in 2023. The decorated wrestler is widely considered to be one of the top prospects in all of MMA, and thus far his UFC results have validated that hype. Nickal earned a pair of first-round submissions over Zachary Borrego and Donovan Beard on the UFC’s Contender Series, then kickstarted his run in the promotion with quick submissions of Jamie Pickett and Brundage sandwiched between a 38-second knockout of Val Woodburn.

Nickal knows the Chimaev fight is one for the distant future, but he’s confident he’ll be able to handle the undefeated Chechen as easily as he did Brundage once they meet.

“I think I’d do very similarly to him what I did to this last guy — take him down, rag-doll him, throw him around,” Nickal said. “He’s not a big ‘85er, he gets tired. So is his first round going to be a little better, more competitive? Probably. But if that fight’s five rounds, I don’t think he makes it five rounds, if we’re being honest. And that’s, to me, kind of a general assessment. Will it be tough at the beginning? Is he going to come at me? Absolutely. But I don’t think he’s going be able to really hurt me or do anything that inflicts so much damage that I’m not going to able to just widen the gap on him as the fight continues.”

For now, Chimaev sits exactly where Nickal hopes to be in the future — smack dab in the thick of the middleweight title conversation. After dispatching his first seven UFC opponents, most of whom he handled with ease, Chimaev is set to take on former champ Robert Whittaker on June 22 in the headliner of the promotion’s debut trip to Saudi Arabia.

Nickal doesn’t much care who wins that matchup, although he acknowledged that if Chimaev is victorious, it only turns an inevitable showdown with “Borz” down the line into a bigger fight. So in that sense, he’s selfishly pulling for his rival to have a successful night — and Nickal believes the criticisms Chimaev has faced since his hard-fought win over former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman are overblown.

“I think anytime there’s praise and hype on somebody, it probably goes too far. Even with myself, I think that it can get out of hand quick,” Nickal said. “And there’s the negative side, there’s the positive side, and then reality is probably somewhere in the middle with everybody. And so I think that, with all that considered, I do believe that with his skills, he could still be champion, and he just has built himself such a reputation that guys are scared of him. Like, I guarantee you Whitaker is terrified of getting taken down, just because of his style and what he’s been able to do. Regardless of whether him and Usman had a close fight, he has built that reputation and solidified it.

“The difference with me is just like, I’ve also built my own reputation, I also know what I’m capable of, and I know for a fact there’s zero chance of him doing that to me, which is his strongest asset. So I think the reputation aspect has a lot to do with it, and why he has won the fights the way he’s won them, and why he competes the way he competes. But I do think he does have skills that, he could be the champion.”

As for his own immediate future, Nickal is already targeting a return to action in late July or early August.

“I want to start approaching the rankings here soon,” Nickal said. “It’s funny, because once you get in the rankings, you don’t really need to fight [everyone]. There’s 15 guys ranked, I don’t need to fight 15 guys to get the belt, right? I only need to fight two or three. So it’s like, if I fight a ranked guy, then it’s feasible that within six months I’m fighting for the belt.

“So I think that I want to get maybe one or two more guys that are a little bit better right outside the rankings, and then maybe early next year start [on] ranked guys, and then maybe 2025, fight for the belt. So that’s kind of where I see it going.”

Source link

You May Also Like