Anthony Smith doesn’t think Bo Nickal is the best wrestler of his generation: ‘He wasn’t good enough to make an Olympic team’

Anthony Smith, Bo Nickal
Photo Credit: The Believe You Me Podcast, Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Former collegiate wrestler Bo Nickal made his long-awaited debut in Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS). Last week, the 26-year-old secured a first-round submission win in his second professional MMA bout over Zachary Borrego. However, top 10 UFC light heavyweight Anthony Smith is still not convinced that Nickal is among the best wrestlers on the planet. 

Despite earning a win, Nickal was not awarded a UFC contract by Dana White. The UFC president did give Nickal a second tryout to gain more experience and earn a roster spot.

During an appearance on the Believe You Me Podcast, Smith gave his thoughts on Nickal being labeled one of the best wrestlers today and reacted to his DWCS win.

“I’m a huge NCAA wrestling fan, so I’m very familiar with Bo Nickal for sure. The reason Bo Nickal is in MMA is because he wasn’t good enough to make an Olympic team and I don’t mean he wasn’t good enough to make it. I don’t mean it like that. Just the guys ahead of him in the two weight classes… he just can’t beat those two guys. 

“We’re talking Olympic medalists, world-class wrestlers, some of the best wrestlers to ever come out of America or to ever step on the mat in the world so I’m not discrediting him because he can’t beat those guys.”

Anthony Smith Does Believe Bo Nickal Has Useful Violence 

Smith, who made his UFC debut in 2013, did credit Nickal’s intensity as a wrestler. He believes his wrestling strengths would help him in his MMA career. 

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“He’s the best folk-style wrestler to ever come into MMA. He’s a f—ing monster and he was mean too. Like in his wrestling career, he had that tenacity and that meanness when he wrestled. That’s going to translate very well to MMA because he was kind of just a bully, just wanting to hurt you and smash you kind-of wrestler.”

Nickal is a three-time NCAA Division I National Champion at Penn State University. The MMA prospect was also awarded the Hodge Trophy, which is regarded as the Heisman of the wrestling world. Nickal finished his collegiate wrestling career with a 120-3 record. 

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Last August, the three-time Big Ten Champion shared the news of his transition to MMA. Since then, he has competed in two amateur and two professional fights, earning finishes in each. 

After his DWCS debut, Nickal reiterated that he wants to be the best fighter in the world. 

“I’m always grateful for the opportunity to compete… The goal is not to be a UFC fighter. I’m here to be UFC champ, be the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” Nickal said. “I think anybody that I fight for the rest of my career… they should expect to get mauled in wrestling if I want to do that to them. I’m just building my reputation.”

Nickal is scheduled to make his second DWCS appearance against Donovan Beard on Sept. 27.

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Marc Ray has lived his entire life in Houston, Texas, where he was born, raised and attended the University of Houston, studying broadcast journalism. As you may imagine, he spends much of his time watching mixed martial arts as part of his daily routine — not only to pump himself up, but also because he deeply enjoys the sport. Ray has worked for Houston Public Media, where he interned in the newsroom and produced community stories. Ray also created sports features in Houston for El Gato Media Network and occasionally produced content for an internship at AARP.