For a fighter who hasn’t professionally set foot in the cage, fans are flocking in to show their support for the 0-0 fighter, and that’s exactly what Bo Nickal expected.
Some fighters go to the most flashy of lengths to become a fan favorite in the cage. Some turn their skin tone to 60% ink, some dye their hair, some use their words, some become the most villainous fighters on the roster and others give up positions in hopes of scoring that one viral knockout that can transform a career. There’s no end in sight for the get famous quick schemes fighters will experiment with in order to build themselves and their fights.
Jorge Masvidal was in the sport for almost twenty years before catapulting himself into superstardom, Chris Curtis was almost 40 fights into his career before ever having his name read at a major promotion, and there are countless examples of fighters trying everything they can think of to make noise but just not being heard.
Nickal has an army-like fanbase behind him, and with UFC main card-level engagement on his social media posts, most debuting fighters would be caught very off-guard by the love.
“None of this surprised me,” Nickal said. “It’s kind of what I expected. I feel like I generate that kind of excitement and noise, and it’s cool to see that. I’ve always had a lot of support from fans throughout my wrestling career, so it doesn’t really surprise me. It’s definitely something I’m very grateful for.”
As one-sided as most of his career was, and is likely to continue to be, his skill is enough to draw fans in, and as much as Nickal values every voice that’s ever screamed for him along the way, the key to his stardom might just be not aiming for fame.
“It doesn’t really motivate me, so it can’t really harm me,” Nickal said. “I just focus on being the best me I can be, and if people respond to that then that’s really cool and it’s something that I’m grateful for and it’s exciting, but I’m doing what I’m doing for personal reasons.”
Aside from two high-profile matches with Myles Martin and some fans disliking his personality, Nickal rose to these heights among the fans without ever having bad blood with anybody or any polarizing behavior.
He was famous in wrestling, but as a wrestler and amateur fighter he never really met his match. Going into a new sport, there will always be questions of how he can promote himself. He might have the Penn State support, but getting on a microphone and cutting a Michael Chandler-esque promo is a little bit different than being fed scheduled opponents.
With all that in mind, Nickal laughs at the skepticism.
“I sort of have a track record if you go back and you pick up interviews and articles and post-match stuff from me from my wrestling career,” Nickal said. “Wrestling is a much different set of circumstances as far as the buildup, the hype, the trash talking and stuff, but I would say I was definitely one of the more colorful guys and, at the end of the day, I’m not afraid to say what I think is going to happen.”
Fans are unlikely to see Nickal change into the cookie cutter mold of what a fighter does, says and acts like. Fans may follow, they may not. Fighters may respect it, they may not.
At the end of the day, he’s a fighter and he’s going to continue to be the same version of himself that he’s always been - The same version of himself that’s had one of the most decorated fanbases of all-time screaming his name for years.
“If people want to talk crazy or whatever to hype themselves up before a fight, I’m not going to be afraid to shut that down,” Nickal said. “I’ve thought about this a lot, and regardless of what anybody says, they’re going to have to fight me. They’re going to have to get in the cage and the door’s going to lock. I might not be going after somebody or being aggressive trying to put somebody down and play mental games before the fight, but as soon as the door locks I’m going to be in their face the whole time. That’s going to be something they’re going to have to worry about.”
Catch Bo Nickal’s pro MMA debut at iKon FC 3. The action comes your way June 3, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!