by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
After disappointing showings on The Ultimate Fighter 3 and at UFC 73, Colorado jiu-jitsu ace “Big” Mike Nickels has found himself on the comeback trail.
Wins in his last three fights, including an impressive Fight of the Night win over fellow UFC veteran David Heath in the MFC in October has Nickels possibly on the verge of returning to his former promotion.
Currently standing in the way of Nickels’ achieving such a task is Ultimate Fighter 8 alumnus Vinny “Pezao” Magalhaes, as the two are scheduled to meet on the Dec. 4 edition of Colorado’s popular Ring of Fire.
“I feel good,” stated Nickels heading into Friday’s fight. “I’ve been training a lot and working on a lot of different things, and coming off the David Heath fight I feel like I’ve got good momentum and want to keep it going.”
With two wins this year, and three victories in a row overall after having left the UFC, Nickels is having the kind of year he wanted to in order to accomplish his main goal.
“In 2009 I wanted to make a push back to the UFC, so I started training really hard and finally towards the end of the year we finally started having things come along,” Nickels told MMAWeekly.com.
“Originally the UFC told me to get a couple wins and they’d have me back after the Stephan Bonner fight. It took me a little while to get the fights to come through, but I got a couple wins, and hopefully if things go my way against Vinnie, it will (create) that opportunity.”
While he’s confident going into the fight, Nickels knows Magalhaes is someone he cannot underestimate.
“On the ground he’s definitely a top-shelf jiu-jitsu guy,” stated Nickels. “Some of the only fights I remember from (Ultimate Fighter) Season 8 was with him being slick on the ground, with omo plata arm bars from the top and stuff.
“I have faith in my jiu-jitsu and my training, and if anything I can keep myself out of danger. As far as the stand-up, it’s anybody’s fight.”
Nickels further explained, “I know a lot of people say that Vinnie doesn’t like to get hit, or he doesn’t have the best stand-up, but people were saying that about me for years.
“The last thing I would do is expect him to just try to take me to the ground. I know David Heath thought I was going to take him down, and I was pretty comfortable standing and trading with him, so I expect an all level fight from Vinnie.”
Should Nickels capitalize on the opportunity Magalhaes presents, he feels that 2010 could be the year he makes his push back to the big leagues.
“Looking to the New Year, I think I’m in as good of a position as I’ve ever been,” said Nickels. “I’m training, constantly getting better; improving my speed, timing, submissions, wrestling, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been so far.
“I’m looking forward to the next year. There’s such a huge pool of talent out there and every fight brings another challenge, and I’m up for that. I want to see where I fit into at this level.”
Four wins in a row could make it hard for the UFC to deny that Nickels has worked his way back to the promotion, and that’s exactly what he’s determined to do.
“I want to thank Colorado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai of Colorado, Oscar Martinez, all my sponsors, the guys in my gym and my family for being supportive and helping me get in the cage and looking out for me,” closed out Nickels.
“I’m preparing for the worst and expecting the best. I’ll be in there with my gloves on, fighting my heart out, and may the best man win.”