Bo Nickal, one of the UFC's most-hyped prospects in recent memory, opened his career with the promotion with a bang, but not without controversy.
The former Penn State wrestler defeated Jamie Pickett by first-round submission to begin the UFC 285 card on Saturday in Las Vegas. It seemed like just the start the UFC was hoping for and many were expecting — Nickal was favored -240 to win in the first round — unless you took a closer look at the sequence of the events that led to Pickett tapping out.
As the two were clinched against the fence, Nickal's knee appeared to connect with Pickett's groin, leaving the veteran in clear pain as Nickal proceeded to take him down and get him in an arm-triangle choke.
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Pickett's manager, LaMont Chappell, told USA Today after the bout that Pickett's team will appeal the result to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, arguing that an illegal low blow led to the result. A successful appeal would make the result a no-contest.
Nickal, predictably, didn't think much of Pickett's grievance when asked about it:
"I know exactly what happened. I hit him in the leg, in the thigh," Nickal said. "I had him in a bad position on the wall, so he wanted to get off the wall and he wanted the ref to stop it. If I had actually hit him low, I would feel bad because I don't want to win that way.
"I'm not a cheater, I'm not someone that tries to take shortcuts, so if I did hit him low, I would have just relaxed probably or let the ref stop it, but I didn't hit him low at all. It's a weird move, bro."
Such appeals are typically long shots, and this one likely won't stop the UFC from moving forward with its potential middleweight star.