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Penn State Wrestling

‘He’s a Name’: Paul Craig Intrigued by Idea of Fighting Bo Nickal

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Bo Nickal

Penn State wrestling great Bo Nickal has won his first five professional MMA fights with ease.

None of them have made it past the first round.

Nickal, who was a four-time All-American at Penn State, a three-time national champion and the 2019 Hodge Trophy winner, was already a big name before starting his MMA career.

The combination of Nickal’s self-promotion skills and early MMA success have helped his brand grow, and any fight he has is going to generate attention.

UFC veteran Paul Craig didn’t flat out say that he wants a piece of Bo Nickal, but he’s intrigued by the possibility.

Like Nickal, Craig is a middleweight, moving down a weight class despite being a top 10 lightweight.

Craig had his middleweight debut Saturday at UFC London, beating Andre Muniz.

After the fight, Craig talked about his future in the division, and Nickal’s name came up.

“I kind of like Bo Nickal as a fight,” Craig said. “Nobody wants to fight him, but then if he takes me down, he better be good at passing guard, because I’m very good at retaining guard. He’s a name. He’s a name and he can play into my game plan, where he gets me tight, takes me down and it just fits me better.”

Nicknamed “Bearjaw”, Craig is going to be 36 in November (Nickal is 27) and has a record of 17-6-1.

So Craig is certainly more established than anybody Nickal has fought thus far. But Nickal doesn’t seem to be in a rush to fight anybody at the moment.

Not long after winning his second and most recent UFC fight— a KO of Val Woodburn in 38 seconds— Nickal, who is also expecting his first child along with his wife and three-time Penn State track & field All-American Maddie (maiden name Holmberg), discussed his future on The MMA Hour Podcast.

Nickal might not fight again in 2023, and doesn’t want to rush anything.

“I’m 27,” he said. “I’ve probably got another eight years of prime fighting. Even up to 35, I think I’ll still be in my prime because of my discipline and my work ethic and my commitment inside the cage and outside. I’ve got a long time to keep competing. So for me, it’s no rush. I’m 5-0. Whoever the UFC gives me, whoever Dana (White) and Hunter (Campbell) decide that makes sense for me to fight, then I’m ready to go. But I’ll get the belt and achieve my goals in due time.”


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