Thanks to a UFC veteran's comments, Pat Mineo sees the wrestling community as cohesive as ever ahead of Bo Nickal's Dana White's Contender Series return.
After Nickal chainsawed his way through Zachary Borrego on Dana White's Contender Series, his stock was higher than it's ever been. He didn't earn a UFC contract, but he was already the talk of the promotion. It's not abnormal for Nickal to be the talk of his sport. He was the face of NCAA wrestling his entire career and this was no different.
He was every fan's favorite wrestler and the biggest thorn in the side of his haters, as Pat Mineo of The Wrestling Room details.
Nickal's venture into MMA has been no different. Iowa and Ohio State fans have been calling his opponents bums, and Penn State diehards want him in the cage with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya by the end of the year.
Mineo's biggest frustration is that the NCAA army should band together for Nickal. He's not wrestling against the team you love anymore; he's fighting to represent the sport you live for.
"A lot of times the community can't get out of their own way," Mineo said. "We need to be showing support. Some people in the wrestling community are like, 'He hasn't fought anyone. Let's see him get hit!' and it's like, wait a minute, why don't you understand the process?
"I think the tide with the rest of the wrestling community will change when he's in the UFC and they see him still out there knocking people out. Then maybe they'll keep their mouth shut or be like, 'I've loved Bo Nickal since he was at Penn State!'"
Ireland wasn't divided on Conor McGregor when he became the most famous name in MMA, and now every fighter out of Ireland gets a second look as a result. If NCAA fans stood behind Nickal, the wrestlers turned fighters of the future just may get the same treatment.
While it's unlikely the wrestling community, on its own, will ever put their university allegiances aside and band together, the perfect monkey wrench may have just been thrown into the equation.
After Nickal's Dana White's Contender Series domination, longtime UFC light heavyweight and fan favorite Anthony Smith was very vocal about the hype around Nickal.
"The reason Bo Nickal is in MMA is because he wasn't good enough to make an Olympic team," Smith said on Michael Bisping's "Believe You Me Podcast."
The comment set off almost all 25,000+ members of Mineo's page and has stitched together the torn fanbase.
"You saw full-fledged defense of Bo," Mineo explained. "You had this guy in Anthony Smith say he's a huge NCAA wrestling fan, yes. You're just a fan. We get it. He's saying, 'He wasn't good enough to make the team.' I think the wrestling community came back and was behind Bo. Like, you're a big fan of NCAA wrestling and you're speaking on Olympic wrestling. Freestyle, it's completely different, and you don't even know what you're talking about. It's funny. The community talks their mess amongst each other, but when an outsider speaks like that, they all come to the defense."
If the wrestling community does, in fact, rally behind Nickal the way they did immediately following Smith's comments, the NCAA National Championship could become the next place matchmakers look for future stars.
Who knows, with Nickal's size, hype and confidence, and Smith's "Lionheart" and refusal to run from a fight, a 205-pound bout between the two isn't exactly out of the question.
This story first published at UFC.com.