Like many fighters with an impressive minor league resume, Nick Newell wants a shot in the UFC.
But Nick Newell isn’t like many fighters. Actually, he isn’t like any other fighter out there.
You see, thanks to a congenital birth defect, Newell is missing an arm. Despite that handicap, Newell’s got chokes galore, and decent striking and a wrestler’s intensity.
Maybe you saw Newell as a spectacle during his World Series of Fighting days. Other than a loss to Justin Gaethje, Newell certainly kicked a lot of ass. Then he retired for a spell. But he recently emerged from the ether to win at the Legacy Fighting Alliance in Texas, and after notching another win… well, he wants his shot. He wants that trip to the Octagon. He wants what he’d so obviously get if it weren’t for his arm.
So… does he deserve it? Or, putting the notion of “deserve” aside, should he get it? Is the sport – and the mainstream public – ready to see a fighter with a physical deformity perform on the sport’s biggest stage?
Mike Chiappetta over at MMAFighting put it this way:
After vanquishing Sonny Luque in his LFA 35 comeback fight last Friday night, Newell put a little shine on an already gaudy record. He’s now 14-1 with 11 finishes. Newell is also the proud owner of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, won 123 wrestling matches in high school, and captained his college team at Western New England University. It is the resume of a serious and accomplished athlete.
On its surface, that record is about as good as it gets, but it’s a failure to look past Newell’s physical surface level that has led MMA’s major organizations to shy away from him. If he had any appearance other than his own — he was born with one hand — he would have been contracted to compete in the UFC or Bellator a long time ago. If he was covered in tattoos, if he had a ridiculous haircut, if he regularly wore a fur coat and a top hat, he would be further along than he is now, stuck just shy of where he wants to be.
Being born with a congenital amputation should not sentence you to a life of limited opportunity, but that clearly occurs more than it should. Still, Newell has approached his days with a special kind of vigor, attacking his pursuits with focus and drive. But not every ambition is his alone to unlock. Sometimes, others must determine that yes, you have proven yourself capable, and can join the club. That is what Newell is up against now. The UFC is an organization he can’t force his way into. He can knock, cajole, campaign and push, but the final decision is not his. There is no automatic entry with a magic number of victories or a sustained winning streak; he is simply at the whim of the decision makers.