Michael Bisping: Bo Nickal could be the ‘American Khabib Nurmagomedov,’ that’s why he’s on the UFC 300 main card

Three-time NCAA wrestling champion Bo Nickal might be one of the best prospects to ever join the UFC roster but he’s still getting his feet wet with only five professional fights and less than six total minutes in the cage in his entire career.

Still, the 28-year-old fighter landed a coveted spot opening the main card for the historic UFC 300 pay-per-view on Saturday but that move didn’t sit well with everybody. There has been some public blowback that Nickal doesn’t deserve such a high profile spot on the card, especially with a slew of former champions and more established veterans currently decorating the prelims.

UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping understands that it’s possible to complain about just about anything — that happens a lot in combat sports — but he doesn’t see why the UFC wouldn’t take advantage of putting Nickal in such an enviable position for this event.

“Listen, I understand why some people may have an issue with that,” Bisping explaind when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Because it seems a far more prestigious position. You’re on the pay-per-view. But if you take that logic then if you’re Deiveson Figueiredo and Cody Garbrandt, you’re really annoyed. If you’re Jessica Andrade, you’re fuming. If you’re Holly Holm, Aljamain Sterling, the greatest bantamweight of all time — guess what? There’s not enough room for everybody because the card is that f****** stacked.

“So once again they go back to something to complain about. The first fight of the night, the first free fight is two former champions taking on one another. There’s not enough room for everyone to be on there.”

When it comes specifically to Nickal’s credentials, Bisping praises the Penn State alum for his long list of accolades in wrestling but also the foundation that gives him for a long, successful career in the UFC.

He may only have five fights on his resume currently but Bisping views Nickal as the kind of talented individual who could become a UFC champion and a dominant force in the sport for years to come. In fact, Bisping believes Nickal could set a standard in the UFC that has only been met by a few select fighters in the past.

“I’ll tell you why Bo Nickal is on [the UFC 300 main card] — because Bo Nickal has the potential to go down as one of the greatest champions that we’ve ever seen,” Bisping said. “An American version of a Khamzat Chimaev or an Islam Makhachev or Khabib Nurmagomedov. That’s the kind of pedigree that he has and has shown so far. When you reach the level that Bo Nickal has in wrestling, you’re a special kind of human being. When I speak to Bo Nickal and I interview him, he’s very aware of what he’s capable of. That doesn’t come from a position of arrogance or anything like that. It’s just simply because he knows what he’s capable of and he knows the work that he’s put in. It’s a different level.

“Bo Nickal’s a guy that’s kind of been bred in a lab since he was a child. Put in the toughest training environments. The training that these wrestlers go through at that kind of level is insane. That’s why when you see somebody like Khabib, even though he didn’t do the same kind of path, was so successful. Bo Nickal has got the ability to be an American Khabib Nurmagomedov.”

Those are lofty expectations but Nickal has received similar adoration since he first decided to try his hand at MMA. That might crumble some athletes but Nickal already achieved so much in wrestling that it’s unlikely he’ll fall apart in the spotlight now that he’s in the UFC.

He’s already been on the pay-per-view main card for both of his previous UFC fights and his upcoming matchup against Cody Brundage will be no different. Bisping says that speaks volumes about the UFC’s investment in Nickal as a future star.

“The UFC know what they have on their hands and he knows what he has got potentially at his fingertips as well,” Bisping said. “It’s called being a promoter. You put him on there because I’ll tell you what, when he fought Val Woodburn or the fight before that against Jamie Pickett, he’d only had two fights on [The Contender Series] and when he walked out, the pop that he got from the arena was phenomenal. So he’s got a big following.

“He’s got the potential to be a very, very long term, dominant champion. Go down potentially as one of the greatest in the sport so promote him. Put him on the main card. Give him a logical step up in Cody Brundage and if you don’t like it, don’t f***** watch!”

For all the ways Nickal is being set up to succeed by the UFC, he still has to go out and win fights.

Bisping acknowledges that Nickal will be an overwhelming favorite to beat Brundage on Saturday — the widest odds for any fight on UFC 300 — but there’s still no guarantees he wins. That level of intrigue mixed with the interest in Nickal’s future make the perfect recipe for a marquee spot on the biggest card of 2024.

“The man’s undefeated and he’s got the ability to retire undefeated,” Bisping said about Nickal. “Yeah, you’re going to get behind that guy a little bit. You’re going to promote him. You’re going to open up a legendary card. They’ve only done that because they know what he is capable of. They’re not taking a gamble here. Bo Nickal is that guy. He’s absolutely that guy.

“On paper, Bo Nickal should run through Cody Brundage. But it’s not a guarantee. That’s what makes this sport so amazing, so much fun to watch and so compelling. The reason he’s opening the main card is because he has the ability to go down as one of the most dominant middleweights that the sport has ever seen.”

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