Bo Nickal is ushering in a new era of star wrestlers transitioning to MMA, and XFN’s Nick Piccininni is happy to help spearhead the movement.
The 2-0 Piccininni, an Oklahoma State standout, made his pro debut in June 2021 with every one of the Pokes behind him. The three-time All-American might be one of the greatest Cowboys to never win a National title and while he has more respect in the wrestling community than most people will ever earn, flyweights in his way are bound to feel the wrath of a man who doesn’t have the crown he deserves.
His first two fights have hovered around the 90-second mark and he’s looking exactly like a dominant wrestler with hands of stone and two submissions to go with it. He has the quickness of a flyweight, the ground-andpound power that resembles a certain 29-0 former lightweight champion and the wrestling of… Well… A three-time NCAA All-American.
The more he looks like a brutalizing fighter, the easier it is to forget he was one of the most intense, OSU loyal, Penn State-hating wrestlers in the game.
Well not ONLY Penn State, but definitely Penn State.
“There’s a big rivalry,” Piccininni said. “It’s probably not talked about because I think the focus gets put on Oklahoma State and Iowa. Historically speaking, we’re just better than Iowa. I think that in the long-term, Oklahoma State will always be better than Iowa, but what Penn State is doing right now is what Oklahoma State has done. They are, historically, following a trend and it’s very similar to what we have done. We were the first to do it so it’s an unspoken battle and rivalry between Oklahoma State and Penn State. I think their reign is only going to last so long.”
Piccininni recalls crossing paths with Nickal once in the two or three years the two overlapped careers. They competed in far different weight classes so there wasn’t any personal ill will, but Piccininni wanted nothing more than to see Nickal fail as miserably as possible when he was discussed in the same conversation as one of the 125ers fellow Cowboys.
“I’m a rider for my teammates, so if you weren’t Oklahoma State it’s not like I didn’t respect you, but I’m riding for my teammates,” Piccininni clarified. “If you weren’t an Oklahoma State guy, I didn’t have a care for you. I didn’t care for you; I wanted my team to beat you. I respected his abilities and his accomplishments because I know how hard it all is but, at the end of the day, I’m for my team.”
Now that their college days are behind them, the two find themselves on the same team for the first time and Piccininni is as happy as he can be to have Nickal helping to break into the big time with the force of The Monstars from Space Jam.
“Bo is a high-level athlete,” Piccininni said. “He’s a multiple-time National champion and he’s had amateur fights. He gets it. I think he’s got people around him who have done it before, so I think he knows what to expect. Nothing is going to change for him. He’s competed at the highest-level, so turning pro isn’t going to be such a drastic thing for him.”
“There’s a new wave on the come up in MMA,” Piccininni continued. “Wrestlers are starting to see that. I believe that I got on at an early stage and I feel like Bo sees it as well as Bryce Meredith and Mitch McKee. I believe we are the first in this new social media era to jump in early.”
They’re all on the same team today and the only umbrage Piccininni takes with Penn State to this day is for the crowd who maintains Nickal’s pin of Myles Martin was more meaningful than Piccininni’s over Iowa’s Spencer Lee.
“Me pinning Spencer Lee is bigger 100%,” Piccininni said. “There is no if, ands or buts about it. I think Bo Nickal is great, but I think in the sport of wrestling, I hate to say it, but at the weight of 125 pounds, Spencer Lee might go down as the best ever to do it. I think me taking out a future legend at that weight, I can’t go against myself.”
Is there perhaps a friendly rivalry on the horizon between Piccininni and Nickal? Fight fans and wrestling fans alike can only hope.
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