Bo Nickal’s face breaks into a big grin.
He’s just a couple of days away from making his professional MMA debut under the iKON Fighting Championship promotional banner after making the switch from freestyle wrestling.
But that’s not what’s on his mind right now.
No, instead his thoughts have drifted to a hypothetical wrestling match against Khabib Nurmagomedov.
And in his eyes, there would only be one winner.
“To be 100 per cent honest with you, if I were to ever wrestle Khabib, Khabib wouldn’t last more than 30 seconds against me in a wrestling match,” Nickal told GIVEMESPORT.com.
“Maybe 60 seconds, tops.
“I respect the guy, don’t get me wrong, like he’s tough.
“If he’s not the greatest of all time in MMA, he’s up there. There’s nobody that can have an all-time greats list and not have him on it.
“But I’m a wrestler. I’ve done this my whole life. He’s done sambo his whole life but it’s a different thing.
“It would be the same as asking me if I could stop Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring.
“That’s kind of my thought process on me wrestling Khabib. Obviously, great at what he’s done, I have so much respect for him, but that’s my world. So he’s not lasting very long.”
Fighting out of Coconut Creek, Florida, Nickal – a former three-time NCAA Division I national champion and three-time Big Ten Conference champion – also doubles up as the wrestling coach down the road from his home at American Top Team.
Former UFC two-time challenger and BMF champion Masvidal established iKON FC earlier this year to give new opportunities to seasoned veterans and up-and-coming fighters.
Nickal recalled the first time he met Masvidal after being introduced by their manager Malki Kawa.
He added: “Yeah, it was funny. It was the same time when I met Malki and met Dan for the first time.
“So I just came into the gym and he just kind of strolled in and he was just like as cool as could be.
“I was like, ‘Yo, this dude’s for real, this is just how he is’.
“He is exactly what you see in the media. Like, that’s just who he is. He’s that dude.
“Not only did I immediately respect him, but I just knew that he was a genuine guy, a genuinely good dude.
“And he was somebody that I absolutely wanted to work with. And, you know, luckily, I’ve been able to teach him a little wrestling. And he’s been able to teach me so much about striking and the different aspects of the game.
“One of the coolest things is that I got married in December 2020 and he came to my wedding.
“He’s such a cool guy and seriously, like, I can’t express how down to earth he is.
“That’s one of the things I like about him the most, I think, is that he’s just genuine.
“A lot of these guys fighting these days feel like they have to act a certain way for money or fame or whatever, but he’s just himself all the time, and I think that makes me respect him even more.”
So how long will it be before fans get to see him compete in the UFC?
Nickal insists he’s in ‘no rush’ – but that doesn’t mean he’s going to take his foot off the gas either.
He admitted: “I mean, for me it’s no rush.
“I’m focusing on development right now. I know where I’m headed. I know where I’ll be.
“I’m going to be the number one pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
“So you know, that’s my plan, that’s my trajectory.
“Obviously to do that, I’ll need to be in the UFC. The UFC is the premier organisation in the world. There’s a lot of great organisations out there, there’s a lot of great fighters out there, but the UFC is, you know, the top of the top.
“And so for me, I’m not in a rush to get there, if I have, you know, five fights, 10 fights, 15 fights, however many, you know, it doesn’t matter at this point. It’s just about developing. I know the path that I want to take.
“I’m not in a rush but I don’t feel like I’m taking it slow either.
“I’m just taking each step day by day and making sure that I respect the process and continue to improve and get better because there’s a lot that I need to do and a lot that I need to learn to get to where I want to be.
“But yeah, that’s where I’ll eventually be, without a doubt.”