“I always was a fan of the sport, fan of the UFC,” said Nickal. “And so, in my mind, that was always in the back of my mind, even while I was wrestling, that transitioning to MMA could be something that I do. And then about halfway through college, I decided that I’m doing MMA, no matter what. I just continued to think about it more and I knew once I’m done wrestling, I’m fighting.”

UFC 285 EMBEDDED: All Episodes

On Saturday, Nickal makes his UFC debut against middleweight veteran Jamie Pickett. It’s a UFC 285 main card bout that’s received a lot of attention simply because the 27-year-old Colorado native has done a lot to get noticed for someone with only three pro MMA fights. But that spotlight is nothing he isn’t used to.

“I have thousands and thousands of battle-tested competitions where I’m in the fire,” said Nickal. “Obviously, it’s different getting punched and stuff, but I think people underestimate how physical wrestling actually is. It’s basically a real controlled fight out there. And I’ve been doing this since I was six. So, with that being said, I don’t think anybody has as many competition reps as me. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, he’s 3-0, he’s never fought anybody.’ I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid.”