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Henry Cejudo, Kamaru Usman debate how many fights Bo Nickal is from UFC title

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Bo Nickal has future champion written all over him. But how long will it take for the blue-chip prospect to complete his story?

The three-time collegiate wrestling champion burst onto the MMA scene in 2022 and has since gone 6-0, with all of his fights ending via knockout or submission. Nickal was pushed past the opening round this past Saturday at UFC 300, where he put Cody Brundage away with a rear-naked choke in Round 2.

Nickal was visibly disappointed in his performance afterward and debate continues to rage as to how the UFC should book him going forward. Former UFC champions Henry Cejudo and Kamaru Usman discussed Nickal’s potential on a recent episode of their Pound 4 Pound podcast, with both giving their projection for how many fights Nickal will have to take before competing for a UFC title.

“He says, ‘If you’re lucky enough to get the call to fight me, just be grateful and sign that contract,’” Cejudo said. “I’ll tell you what, Bo, don’t put that pressure on you if you’re disappointed in your performance because, quite honestly, I do believe you could be a future champ at 185 pounds, but you are not ready for the top 10. If they put you up against big bodies like Marvin Vettori, who has good jiu-jitsu, big dudes, and can also wrestle, even a guy like Paolo ‘Borrachinha’ [Costa] — he’s not quite ready for that top 10. So I think at 185 pounds, he needs to go three rounds.

“He needs to understand that threshold, because still, him winning and beating these guys super early, if you want to be champion, how is it that you’re going to feel when you actually go five rounds against a guy like Sean Strickland? Paolo ‘Borrachinha?’ Robert Whittaker? Jared Cannonier? That weight class is absolutely stacked. I think he needs to hold his horses. I think he’s still maybe 10 fights away from becoming UFC champion.”

Usman balked at the suggestion that the number of fights in Nickal’s contender path is in the double digits.

“Definitely not 10 fights away,” Usman said. “I think if he continues to grow in the pace that he’s growing, I think in two years he’s going to be in that contender range for sure. I would say next four fights, he’s there.”

“We know it’s moments,” Usman continued. “We know it’s about those moments. He goes out there like his last fight — not this last weekend, but the fight previously — he goes out there and gives you two more of those moments, oh yeah, he’s contender status for sure. Two or three of those moments, one of those ranked opponents and he disposes of them first round, huge knockout? He’s definitely fast-tracked to the title, for sure.”

Cejudo slightly adjusted his prediction to six fights, but still projected that Nickal could be at least three years away.

What Cejudo and Usman strongly agree on is that Nickal needs to block out the noise and focus on building up his skill set.

“He’s had a level head to him, but I think he just needs to focus on improving,” Usman said. “Just stay improving and you’ll get there. Stop worrying about what this guy does or this guy doesn’t, or what this guy says, or whether I please the fans with a crazy knockout, first round. Who gives a s***? Just go out there and improve each and every day.”

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