Meet Francis Ngannou and Sean Strickland’s coach, Eric Nicksick: Man behind two of the biggest upsets of 2023

Find out the early beginnings of Eric Nicksick and his career accomplishments.

Meet Francis Ngannou and Sean Strickland’s coach, Eric Nicksick: Man behind two of the biggest upsets of 2023

Eric Nicksick is the coach of Francis Ngannou and Sean Strickland (via Imago/Instagram)

Each year, one coach in MMA rises to the top. In 2019, it was City Kickboxing’s Eugene Baremen. He led Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski to title wins. Khabib Nurmagomedov became the most prominent coach in 2022. This year, it is none other than Eric Nicksick. The American coach famously led Francis Ngannou and Sean Strickland to title victories.

Ngannou’s victory came in 2021, but “The Predator” recently shocked the world by going head-to-head against lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Nicksick and Dewey Cooper helped Francis Ngannou overcome the odds to win multiple rounds against Fury in his boxing debut. On the other hand, Nicksick led Sean Strickland to dominate dominant champion Israel Adesanya in September.

Early beginnings of Erik Nicksick’s coaching career

Eric Nicksick was born to a family of sports coaches. It is safe to say that the coaching DNA remains in his blood. His father, uncles, and other relatives took up coaching duties as Nicksick grew up. Nicksick was a wide receiver in American Football during high school. He played the same position in college. However, a series of concussions made him reconsider his footballing future.

Eric Nicksick is the head coach of Xtreme Couture gym
Eric Nicksick is the head coach of Xtreme Couture gym (via Instagram)

Around 2006, Nicksick ended up at Xtreme Couture and started coaching their premiere athlete, “The Natural” Randy Couture. A stint that started as a part-time gig became a life-changing venture for Nicksick. Until 2017, he worked as an assistant coach to Robert Follis. However, Follis left in 2017, and Nicksick became its head coach. He has coached some fighters into championships and others into contenders. Find out the strengths of Eric Nicksick that made him a powerhouse in the coaching department.

Eric Nicksick Strength: Coaching to improve the weaknesses of Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou did not have great wrestling in his initial days. Stipe Miocic exposed the weakness of Ngannou at UFC 220 in 2018. The heavyweight legend dominated Ngannou from the first minute to the last.

Wanting to improve himself, Ngannou came to Xtreme Couture to train under Nicksick. Soon, the American coach helped Ngannou improve his wrestling and become a heavyweight juggernaut. Under the guidance of Nicksick, Ngannou avenged his loss against Miocic at UFC 260. During the bout, Stipe attempted to takedown Ngannou multiple times. However, Ngannou defended all the attempts and knocked Stipe out to win the UFC gold.

Francis Ngannou and coach Erik Nicksick
Francis Ngannou and coach Erik Nicksick (Image Courtesy – The Mirror)

The further improvement in Ngannou’s wrestling was evident when the Predator outwrestled Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. During the bout, Ngannou clearly lost the first two rounds and needed to win the next three to retain his UFC title. Nicksick’s pep talk and motivation led Ngannou to overcome the odds and retain the UFC gold.

Recently, he was part of the coaching team that helped Ngannou fight Tyson Fury in boxing. No one expected Ngannou to outshine Fury in the boxing ring. Nicksick and Dewey Cooper helped Ngannou go all ten rounds. Most fans felt that Ngannou did enough to win the bout.

Eric Nicksick Coaching: Major motivator to help Sean Strickland win the UFC gold

Israel Adesanya had a dominant title reign in the middleweight division. At one point, he looked unstoppable. Most fans felt someone like Robert Whittaker or Alex Pereira only had the chance to defeat him. Pereira defeated him at UFC 281 only to lose at UFC 287 to Adesanya. No one expected Sean Strickland to defeat Israel Adesanya at UFC 293. No one except Sean Strickland and Eric Nicksick.

Strickland always got into trouble at MMA Gyms. Legend Dan Henderson recently revealed that Strickland was kicked out of his gym due to trash talks and attitude problems. Nicksick provided a permanent home to Strickland despite his reputation. Multiple sparring partners were brought in to help Strickland improve his striking.

Eric Nicksick coached Sean Strickland to a title win
Eric Nicksick coached Sean Strickland to a title win (via Instagram)

At UFC 293, Strickland pressured Adesanya from the first minute. He knocked Izzy down in the first. Adesanya mounted a comeback in the second. However, Nicksick motivated Strickland to pressure Adesanya. It led Strickland to nullify everything Adesanya threw at him. After dominating four rounds out of five, Strickland became the new champion.

The reality is that no one in 2022 or 2021 thought Strickland was a championship-level fighter. Here we are in 2023, with Strickland reigning over the middleweight division. Miracles happen when preparations are done right. Eric Nicksick did what he signed up for, and so did his fighters.

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