Nickal, who competed twice on this season’s Dana White’s Contender Series, was offered a UFC contract after recording his second fast finish on the show. Two days later, he was booked for his first bout with the promotion at UFC 282 against fellow middleweight Jamie Pickett.
“He has been very impressive thus far,” Chandler told MMA Junkie at Kill Cliff Fight Club. “I think he’s got the right mentality. I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He was always that guy. He had that reputation inside college wrestling. He was a good guy, worked hard, a part of a good team who had a good moral compass, who knew right from wrong. He knew how to keep it clean off the mat, but keep it freaking crazy on the mat and just beat people down.
“So, I think he’s got a very, very bright future. Do I think he’s going to be champion? I’ve been around this sport long enough to know that there’s been so many guys that I thought were going to be so great and they end up fizzling out, and there’s some guys that I thought were going to be average end up being world beaters and champions. You don’t ever quite know. … Long and short of it, it’s refreshing to see a high-level wrestler coming in. I’m excited to see Bo Nickal’s future.”
After Nickal’s first appearance on DWCS, many wondered why White didn’t offer him a contract having witnessed a near-flawless performance that resulted in a rear-naked choke finish just over a minute into the contest. The decorated Penn State collegiate wrestler with multiple NCAA championships proved he had the skills to compete, but it was still only his second professional MMA bout.
Bo Nickal on Khamzat Chimaev: 'Everybody thinks he's untouchable, and I know he's not'
Henry Cejudo: '100 percent, I can see Bo Nickal easily taking down Khamzat Chimaev'
Now in UFC, blue-chip prospect Bo Nickal won't let hype affect him: 'I know how to handle it'
Nickal’s second appearance on DWCS was his third pro fight, which resulted in another submission win, but this time he shaved 10 seconds off his time, finishing his opponent Donovan Beard in 52 seconds. Chandler likes everything he sees from Nickal at this stage, but offered some key advice to the hot prospect that many have already labeled as the sport’s next big thing.
“Think about your 32-year-old self, not the 22-year-old self,” Chandler said. “Think about being here for the long haul. Think about the decisions that you make today and the delayed gratification you can engage in that will someday pay off into as I said, where your reputation and your platform intersect. Build that good reputation, build that good platform. Make yourself an indispensable asset with your promotion, with your team, with your sponsors. Be a person of good reputation, and everything else will take care of itself. He’s already got the talent, he’s already got the abilities. He’s got the coaching, he’s got the hype behind him.
“Now it’s just about navigating, keeping your nose to the grindstone, keeping yourself, your ego in check, and continuing to keep a white belt mentality. A walk-on mentality, as I said. Bo Nickal was the opposite of me. He was a blue-chip recruit who ended up being a couple time All American, couple time national champion. I was a walk on at the University of Missouri. Started at the bottom, had to build myself into who I eventually became, becoming an All American. But keep that walk-on mentality. Every single day that I can learn. It’s an 18-year-old kid that could teach me something or a 58-year-old dude who’s in here moving around with us, I can learn something every day.”
Chandler is currently in preparation to take on former interim champion Dustin Poirier in the feature bout of UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 12. With a win, he hopes to find himself next up for another crack at the lightweight title.