Masvidal had three-time NCAA Division I national champion Bo Nickal come down from Pennsylvania to American Top Team in South Florida to help him polish up his wrestling ahead of Saturday’s UFC 272 headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Nickal, who’s also a 2-0 amateur fighter, was a key ingredient in the training camp for Covington given his size, experience now in MMA, and of course his high-level wrestling pedigree.
The 26-year-old had the duty of imitating Covington and preparing Masvidal for potential wrestling situations come fight night. Nickal doesn’t think Covington’s wrestling is up to par with his and isn’t taken away by what he’s seen on tape.
“I mean, it’s OK. It’s decent,” Nickal told MMA Junkie regarding Covington’s wrestling. “Obviously he wrestled Division I and stuff, so he’s no slouch, and he knows what he’s doing. But I feel like compared to what I’m used to at Penn State and the level that I’m used to, it’s not really similar.
“I think more than anything he has good pressure, but wrestling capabilities, I’m not very impressed with what he does wrestling wise. It’s more he just has a good amount of pressure in the fights and good cardio. But, yeah, the skill is not so high-level in my opinion.”
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Nickal is hoping to log in his third amateur MMA fight this spring. He feels fortunate to be working with a seasoned veteran such as Masvidal. Nickal believes “Gamebred” has improved significantly in the grappling department and expects him to do well in the fight if Covington decides to wrestle.
“I feel like Jorge has really improved his wrestling a ton, and I’m in there grappling with him and stuff,” Nickal said. “Obviously, I’m very experienced in that area and to feel how he’s doing, and not coming from a wrestling background, I’ve been super impressed with everything that he’s shown me.
“I’ve had to turn it up and work hard to get a simple takedown on him. It’s very cool, and I’m excited to see how he does in this fight. I’m definitely very confident in his grappling abilities.”
Covington vs. Masvidal headlines UFC 272 in one of the rare occasions that a non-championship bout headlines a pay-per-view event. The two fighters used to be friend and teammates, but they had a falling out due to Covington allegedly not paying his training dues to Masvidal’s long-time striking coach, Paulino Hernandez. They’ll settle the beef in a much anticipated welterweight showdown,
UFC 272 pre-event facts: Inside the numbers on Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal