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Undersized Alex Nicholson comfortable at heavyweight ahead of PFL 4 bout vs. Philipe Lins

Alex Nicholson appears at the PFL 4 open

Alex Nicholson appears at the PFL 4 open workouts on Tuesday at LAW MMA in Garden City. Credit: Newsday / Ryan Gerbosi

Alex Nicholson isn’t exactly what you’d call a “big” heavyweight.

Sure, “The Spartan” would be an imposing figure to the average person standing at 6-foot-4, but among his competitors in the Professional Fighters League’s heavyweight division, Nicholson is the runt.

“I might only be 215, 220, but I can hit just as hard as them,” Nicholson said. “I’m undefeated, I beat some of the best heavyweights on planet Earth, so I don’t think they can deny that I belong in the heavyweight division anymore.”

Nicholson weighed in at 216.2 pounds Wednesday for his bout at PFL 4 on Thursday at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. That’s more than 15 pounds less than his opponent, Philipe Lins, who is the second smallest heavyweight on the card.

At 28, Nicholson has 17 pro fights across three weight classes. During a four-fight run with the UFC, Nicholson debuted at 205 pounds before three fights at 185, going 1-3 in that time. Now settled with PFL, he’s comfortable with the big boys at heavyweight, sacrificing a bit of size to avoid draining weight cuts.

“I feel great. As I started my career at 17, 18 years old, young and about 195 pounds, cutting 10 pounds wasn’t really an issue for me. But as I got older and became a grown man, I was 220 pounds cutting down to 185, ”Nicholson said. “This isn’t a bodybuilding contest where you dehydrate yourself and flex your muscles. You have to perform. I might look better at 205 and 185, but this is a big, strong man and I can move this weight around. I can hurt people, so that’s what I’m going to keep on doing.”

Nicholson proved that at PFL’s inaugural event last month at Madison Square Garden. A day after weighing in at 214.6 pounds, Nicholson flew through the air and landed a massive knee on 224-pound Jake Heun for a second-round victory despite a slew of injuries ahead of the bout. The spectacular knockout earned him five points in the PFL standings and put a spotlight on Nicholson as the PFL regular season continues.

“I got the job done, man, and I could barely walk a week before that fight, not being dramatic or anything,” Nicholson said. “It’s all healed up now, they suggested surgery, but like every other ignorant fighter I lied, said I’m healthy, I’m fine.”

Nicholson’s smaller size for the division caused some problems back at PFL 1 due to a rule unique to the New York. Under the state’s athletic commission rules, fighters must be within a specified amount of weight with each other, even if both are under the official limit. For heavyweights, that amount is 25 pounds. Nicholson’s scheduled opponent, Kelvin Tiller, was 265.4 pounds, which was within the heavyweight limit but too heavy to face Nicholson, forcing the card to be shuffled.

With PFL revealing this week the championship event will be held at MSG, Nicholson could run into some issues with the commission again, but he says that’s something to deal with as it comes up.

“Let’s say it’s me and Shawn Jordan, I’ll say, ‘ok bro, I’ll be 235, you have to be 255,’” Nicholson said. “I’m going to do whatever makes me comfortable. It’s not fair for me to have to gain weight, why shouldn’t he have to lose weight? We’ll have to do some kind of compromise, and that will be sort of be between me and the fighter. We all kind of understand, we’re fighting for a million dollars, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

To keep fighting for that million dollars, Nicholson will have to come away mostly unscathed against Lins. He again will be the smaller man, but Nicholson sees himself rising to the top once again Thursday night.

“I’m a savage animal, I’m a real-life gladiator. I’m ready to die, and as a Spartan, I’m waiting for a guy to give me a glorious death, and I don’t think Philipe Lins is that guy. He seems like a nice guy, I wish him the best, but I’m ready to get down and dirty, man.”

New York Sports