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Tom Nolan | Welcome To The UFC

Undefeated Lightweight Tom Nolan Makes His UFC Debut Against Nikolas Motta At UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2

A highlight reel knockout on Season 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series earned Australia’s Tom Nolan a coveted UFC contract in August 2023.

The undefeated prospect started his professional career less than three years earlier. Nolan has collected six straight victories since and is riding a four-fight finish streak that includes three first-round knockouts. No finish was as sweet as his latest, when he maximized the spotlight on DWCS against Bogdan Grad.

Just over a minute into the fight, Nolan landed a picture-perfect left hook to finish Grad and lift UFC CEO Dana White out of his seat. The first-round knockout left no doubt that Nolan’s name would be called among the contract winners at the end of the night.

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“I shouldn’t have to say anything, but I’m gonna,” White said. “6-foot-3, 155 pounds; he’s a straight killer. Only 23 years old. The only thing I have to say about this kid is you have a bright future, Tom Nolan.”

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While earning a contract was a surreal experience for Nolan, who’s been working toward this goal for merely a decade, not much has changed outside of having the title of “UFC fighter.”

“My life hasn’t changed in terms of day-to-day, but it’s good to finally be living out my dreams,” Nolan said. “I still feel like I’m not there yet. I still have a lot of work to do, so nothing’s really changed in my personal life.”

Tom Nolan of Australia elbows Bogdan Grad of Romania in a lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week one at UFC APEX on August 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Tom Nolan of Australia elbows Bogdan Grad of Romania in a lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week one at UFC APEX on August 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

At only 14 years old, Nolan was influenced by his idol Anderson Silva to start training mixed martial arts. Originally a tool to stay in shape during the off-season while Nolan played rugby, MMA eventually turned into a full-time commitment when he accepted his first amateur fight in 2016.

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“It’s been a fast journey in terms of my professional career,” Nolan said. “In terms of my whole career, it’s been a long time; I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. This is my 17th fight all [together].”

This Saturday, Nolan makes his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2, back in the same venue where he earned his contract.

 Tom Nolan of Australia reacts after his knockout victory over Bogdan Grad of Romania in a lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week one at UFC APEX on August 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Tom Nolan of Australia reacts after his knockout victory over Bogdan Grad of Romania in a lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week one at UFC APEX on August 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

“It feels familiar,” Nolan said. “I think it doesn’t really matter where I fight, I’m always going to rise to the occasion, but it’s good to be around familiar areas.”

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In the last five months since he earned his contract, Nolan said the biggest improvement he’s made in the gym is his “short game.”

“My elbow game has gotten really, really good since the last fight,” Nolan said. “This [wasn’t] a long layoff, but long for me, so I’ve gotten a lot better since. There’s a lot of areas I’ve improved.”

Tom Nolan Fight Week Interview | UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2
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Tom Nolan Fight Week Interview | UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2
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Nolan squares off against DWCS alum Nikolas Motta, who’s fought four times since earning his contract in 2020, picking up just one win in that span. UFC.com asked Nolan during his fight week interview how he’d describe his fighting style for anyone who hasn’t seen him compete before, to which he replied, “very violent.” He hopes to put that violence on display in front of UFC fans for the first time this Saturday against Motta.

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“I initially got offered a few names, then his name came through,” Nolan said. “It’s a good fight. He’s got a lot of power, he’s very experienced. It’s going to be a really, really good fight. It’s going to be exciting… lots of violence.”

“I think youth is going to be the reason I win this fight.”

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2 took placelive from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on January 13, 2024. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!