Jon Jones downplays run-in with Bo Nickal, gives prediction for his MMA future
LAS VEGAS – Jon Jones knows a thing or two about MMA wrestling, so likely is qualified to speak with a little authority on other wrestlers.
There are few who don’t think standout former collegiate wrestler Bo Nickal has a big future in the sport, and Jones is among the man who are singing his praises. Each has a monumental fight on his hands Saturday at UFC 285, so they’ll be forever linked by that.
Nickal (3-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC), after a pair of wins on Dana White’s Contender Series, will make his UFC debut at middleweight against Jamie Pickett (13-8 MMA, 2-4 UFC). He’s the biggest betting favorite on the card by far at -1900 at Tipico Sportsbook. That makes him one of the biggest favorites in UFC history right out of the gate.
Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC) headlines the card in a vacant heavyweight title fight against former interim champion Ciryl Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC). Jones will be fighting for the first time in more than three years. The former longtime light heavyweight champ is a slight favorite to go into the history books as a two-division champion.
At UFC 285’s media day Wednesday in Las Vegas, Jones said Nickal’s media day comments about an impromptu wrestling match at the start of fight week were inaccurate.
“It wasn’t a wrestling match,” Jones said. “Bo is young and ambitious, and he’s looking for a reason to take me down, I’m sure. I’ll give him the opportunity if he wants it. But I’m an old man with a lot of tricks.
“We shook hands and we kind of got down in a wrestling stance, and I think he was thinking I was going to let his hand go and he went to to try to grab my leg and I held his hand and just kind of made him do a real awkward motion. We both looked at each other and I just (said), ‘I’ve got some tricks, now.’ I didn’t (go up to him and say I could take him down). I learned my lesson with (Daniel Cormier).”
With Jones now at heavyweight and Nickal at 185 pounds, a fight down the road doesn’t seem very likely, which may be another reason for Jones to make light of any kind of talk of a rivalry.
Instead, he said he thinks Nickal is going to be tough for people to deal with in the UFC.
“I’m super excited for Bo Nickal – just an American wrestler,” Jones said. “He represents that grit, that hard work, and I can see him going extremely far in this sport. He has one of the greatest martial arts down already, which I believe is wrestling. Us wrestlers, we get to dictate the pace of a fight. Things get tough on us, we just take it to the ground. And we also can avoid being taken down and get back to our feet when we’re in trouble, and Bo has that down. I think he’s going to do awesome. I’m excited to get to know him better.”
UFC 285 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 285.
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