Even if it doesn’t happen in the immediate, Nickal (3-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is coming for Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) and he announced that to the world after his UFC contract-earning Dana White’s Contender Series victory Tuesday.
In his broadcasted post-fight interview, Nickal called out Chimaev and jabbed at the UFC contender’s recent UFC 279 weight miss. He doubled down minutes later at a post-fight news conference.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about as far as kidding,” Nickal told reporters including MMA Junkie. “I feel like that’s a good matchup for me. He’s obviously a high-level grappler, high-level fighter. He’s one of the top fighters not only in his division, but in the UFC. I have a lot of respect for his skills but I also know what I’m about. So yeah. At some point. I’m making my UFC debut. He’s probably fighting for the title soon. So am I going to get that fight? Probably not. But I’m ready to go. It will happen in the future. I’ll be more than prepared then.”
Nickal thinks Chimaev is top-tier talent and explained the callout isn’t a result of a perceived deficiency, no. Nickal likes the matchup stylistically and thinks his grappling would neutralize much of Chimaev’s game.
“He’s good without a doubt,” Nickal said. “You can’t take that away from him. He’s got skills and he does a lot of things really well. That being said, ask anybody who knows anything about wrestling and who watches the sport and studies it and puts time into it. I’m one of the best wrestlers in the world. You can go in the Penn State room, still to this day, without having wrestled a year-and-a-half, I’m still right there. There’s just a different level there.
“It’s like the same thing as putting a high-level jiu-jitsu guy in the UFC and in an ADCC competition. Yeah, I’m good at wrestling. I’m world class. It’s different. Again, respect to him. Respect again. I respect his skills, but I also know what I’m about.
While Nickal eventually vowed the matchup would eventually happen, he admitted he knows there’s probably a build that’ll have to come first. Nickal is in no rush to dive head-first into the UFC rankings, but wants to stay active as 2024 is the golden goal.
“I’m a year into this, so I don’t really feel like I need to rush,” Nickal said. “I am excited just to compete and improve. I think by the middle or end of ’24, I’ll be the champ. I’ll be the number one guy on the roster. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m not skipping steps on the way there. I feel like I’ve made a great progression in my first three fights, fighting a guy 0-0, a guy 3-0, a guy 7-1 – steps up in competition each time. I’m going to continue to do that. I know what I’m capable of doing, so I believe that those goals that I say constantly are very attainable for me.”
Nickal indicated he hopes to return at the UFC Fight Night event Dec. 3 in Orlando, Fla. – one of four left in 2022 that are scheduled to be held in front of a fully-attended arena.
“I told Dana (White). I told Hunter (Campbell). I said, ‘I’m ready to go, guys.’ On the way out of the octagon, I said, ‘Book me again.’ So hopefully December, main card, whatever card they have going around that time,” Nickal said. “I would be very excited to be a part of (it). I’m healthy and excited and continuing to improve, so I want to continue to fight. That’s again, like I said earlier, the most exciting part of what I do. I want to get back in there right away.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for DWCS 56.