Bo Nickal gets UFC contract with 52-second submission victory over Donovan Beard

Bo Nickal, 26, a Penn State wrestling legend, considered as one of the most accomplished Nittany Lions of all-time and a three-time NCAA Division I national collegiate wrestling champion, wrapped up the main event of the Dana White Contender Series season finale on Tuesday night, submitting Donovan “The Highlight Reel’ Beard, a pro MMA fighter, with a triangle choke just 52 seconds into their middleweight bout.

The young talent’s second Contender Series win in two months and consecutive good performances fascinate UFC president Dana White, who offers the former Nittany Lion an official contract to become a part of the organization.

Just 52 Seconds to earn the prestigious UFC contract!! 

Nickal’s journey to the UFC was likely a forgone conclusion given his first performance, a quick finish that helped promotion president Dana White get some additional shine on his talent development network.

But the former Nittany Lion needed just 52 seconds to tap his opponent, Donovan Beard, and the triangle he rolled for was the third finish he attempted in the short time he spent in the small octagon at UFC APEX. First it was an overhand left, then it was a guillotine choke, and then it was the triangle choke that left Donovan and the audience wondering what just happened.

“I literally write notes to remind myself [of the fights]’ White said after Nickal’s performance. “The only note on my paper is ‘goddamn it.’ I mean, for a kid with almost no experience, he took on a guy who’s 6-foot-2, a 7-1 [record], a 78-inch reach — the confidence this kid had to roll into the triangle the way he did….

“I, like many other people, am excited about this boy’s future. Welcome to the UFC. “

His tremendous wrestling experience and the early work he did with the American Top Team under trainer Mike Brown make him arguably the hottest prospect in MMA. In his first Contender Series appearance on September 27, he rear-naked-choked Zack Borrego in just 62 seconds.

Donovan Beard, despite six years of seniority, had a 7-1 professional record prior to the fight, with his only loss coming by decision in a November 2021 fight.

“I’m born for this, bred for this,” Nickal said in his post-fight interview. “I expected to stand with him for one punch. I knew I’d drop him if I landed it. “

White also declared that Bo Nickal would be included in the upcoming UFC 4 video game as a result of his performance. As he was interviewed following the contract announcement, Nickal even held a copy of the game with him on the cover.

After the second win, Nickal challenged welterweight contender Khamzat Chimaev and YouTube star Logan Paul to his UFC debut. White hinted that the promotion would build Nickal up like any other talented young fighter rather than book him against a top opponent.

“I’m ready to go in December,” Nickal said with a smirk. “Give me Logan Paul…” If we can’t do it in the UFC, let’s do it in the WWE. “

With his contract, Nickal becomes the second Nittany Lion ever to earn a spot in the UFC. Phil Davis was the most recent Penn Stater in the promotion, last appearing in 2015.


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