Coach Eric Nicksick Urges Sean Strickland Not to Become ‘Soft’ for UFC 302

Eric Nicksick, a seasoned coach, nods to the idea that Sean Strickland could use a dash of sophistication. But, he’s quick to clarify, not at the expense of Strickland’s grit.

Strickland, with a record of 28-6, is gearing up for a clash. He’s set to face Paulo Costa, who holds a 14-3 record, in a much-anticipated five-round co-headliner. The event, UFC 302, is slated for June 1 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Strickland, often in the spotlight for his outspoken rants and views, showed a different side recently. A video of him teaching his dog, Harley, to swim sparked conversations. Could the man known as “Tarzan,” a former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champ, have a tender heart?

His coach of many years has an answer: yes. Strickland, it seems, is a “softy” at heart.

Nicksick, alongside Strickland’s girlfriend and their gym crew, is on a mission. They’re polishing Strickland’s rough edges, yet they’re unanimous in one thing. They don’t want to see him lose his inherent toughness.

“Order Now! UFC 302 ‘Makhachev vs. Poirier’ this Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+,” an ad breaks in, momentarily shifting focus.

“Yeah, of course, man, he’s a big ol’ softy bro. Like 100%,” Nicksick shares in an interview. He emphasizes the balance they strive for with Strickland. Keeping his edge while smoothing out some aspects of his personality. Strickland’s girlfriend, K.J., has been a significant positive influence, according to Nicksick. Together with the gym family, they’re keen on maintaining Strickland’s fierceness, albeit with a touch of refinement.

Strickland’s emotional depth was on full display leading up to his UFC 297 bout against Dricus Du Plessis. A mention of his challenging childhood by du Plessis hit a nerve. Strickland opened up about his past abuse in a heart-wrenching podcast episode with comedian Theo Von. Despite the emotional turmoil, he faced “Stillknocks” in the ring, ultimately conceding his title in a split decision that could have gone either way.

An Instagram post from ESPN MMA pops up, offering a visual break and a momentary diversion from the narrative.

And just like that, the script shifts back to the world of MMA, leaving readers to ponder the complexities and contradictions that make up a fighter like Sean Strickland.

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