On Saturday, March 4, UFC 285 will occur at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is headlined by Jon Jones’ return to the octagon against Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight championship as the main event, but not before Valentina Shevchenko looks to defend her flyweight belt against Alexa Grasso in the co-main. The stage is set for some massive fights.

But those two bouts are not the only intriguing fights of the night. Earlier on the UFC 285 main card, former Penn State wrestler Bo Nickal will make his UFC debut against Jamie Pickett. Nickal enters this fight with 3 MMA wins and no losses.

He earned this spot after a masterful performance in Dana White’s Contender Series (a competition between up-and-coming fighters to earn a UFC contract), in which he notched two submissions.

A College Wrestling Phenom

It’s no surprise that Bo Nickal is on this stage. He was a dominant wrestler for Penn State’s wrestling team, one of the most prestigious programs in the collegiate field. He finished his career with 90 wins and three losses, including 3 Big Ten Conference championships and three national championships.

A Rising Star

His resume speaks for itself. When knowing his remarkable accomplishments at Penn State, there’s no question why UFC president Dana White viewed Nickal with more favor than most. That being said, the prodigy still had to prove himself.

After Bo submitted Zack Borrego with a choke in his first fight in Dana White’s Contender Series, the UFC president still wanted to see more before gifting Nickal a UFC contract. In his next fight, Nickal submitted Donovan Beard with a triangle choke within the first minute of the fight. That was all Dana White needed to see.

Despite having little experience in mixed martial arts, Nickal looks to be an ascending superstar that could quickly take the middleweight division by storm. His wrestling background shows he’s a threat to take anybody down, and his newly-showcased jiu-jitsu skills are something to be feared.

The Future of Wrestling

Bo Nickal’s prospective career in the UFC is big news for high school and college wrestlers nationwide. Professional careers stemming from wrestling are hard to come by, which causes many talented athletes to opt not to continue their careers in college.

Suppose Nickal can propel off of this first fight into a successful career that sees him taking on top talent in the middleweight division, such as Israel Adesanya, Alex Pereira, Paulo Costa, or Robert Whittaker. In that case, talented wrestlers will no doubt be inspired to pursue a similar path.

This could also provide a boost to wrestling programs. The difficulty college and high school wrestling have stayed relevant is no secret.

They often struggle to attract attention outside of the big tournaments. Even then, the viewership numbers pale compared to NCAA basketball’s March Madness tournament or the College Football Playoff National Championship game. A successful career for Bo Nickal may mean more eyes on wrestling.