LAS VEGAS – Nick Newell is long past the point of having to prove himself. He is 14-1 in an MMA career which began in 2009, with his only loss to Justin Gaethje in a WSOF title fight in 2014.
Had he been born with both arms, Newell undoubtedly would have been a regular in the UFC by this point.
Newell, though, is a congenital amputee who was born with a left arm that ends just past the elbow, and that has complicated matters. He’s hesitant to call it a disability, because it’s all he’s known.
“The whole word ‘disability’ is a subject where people have different opinions,” Newell said Thursday during an interview at the UFC Performance Institute. “Some people say, ‘Oh, I’m disabled and I’m proud.’ Some say, ‘It’s not a disability, it’s an ability.’ I don’t get too much into words or what people say or what people call it.
“For me, it’s just the way I was born. If you want to call it a disability, that’s fine. Obviously, it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do, but you have to call it something.”
So, disability or not, it is his left arm, and not his record nor his talent, that has kept him out of the UFC. But Newell recently met UFC president Dana White in order to make his case for a spot in the UFC.
White did not outright grant him a spot, but met Newell halfway. He offered Newell a spot in the UFC’s web show, “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series,” a summer series in which fighters outside the UFC fight for the right to impress White and earn a contract.
Newell was flying home Thursday after his work at the Performance Institute, and not as a UFC fighter. But he has an opportunity and that’s all he asked of White.
White is a master marketer, and there is no question that having Newell fight on the “Contender Series” will draw monster viewership to the show. That can help the other fighters on the card and build interest in them, so perhaps that’s White’s master plan.
Newell, though, simply is happy to be able to have the chance. It’s mainly up to him and that’s why he flew to Las Vegas in the first place.
It’s been a long process, he noted.
“I’ve been knocking on the door for quite some time now, probably since I’ve been 7-0 and was asking for a shot,” Newell said. “I’m 14-1 now. I think he knew, and could see that I had the skill, it’s just that there’s always a lot of people who have a lot of things to say about me. Whether I win or lose, a lot of people pay attention to me. It’s either really, really good things people say or really, really bad things.
“He just wanted to make sure I was ready for that mentally, and he could see my passion for the sport. I convinced him to give me a shot on the show.”
His coach, Jeremy Libiszewski, said Newell has been ready for the UFC in his opinion since he defeated David Mays by knockout with a knee in 2012.
Since that point, Libiszewski said, it’s just working on making regular improvements.
“Every fighter has things he needs to work on or can be better at and that’s what we’re doing, but he’s been ready for a while,” Libiszewski said. “And I have no doubt he’ll do well when he gets the opportunity.”
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