World Series of Fighting (WSOF) lightweight Nick Newell isn’t one to back down from a challenge. As he continues to prove who he is to the world, the focus has begun to shift away from him being a one-armed fighter to people realizing he is in fact someone to be reckoned with for his skill.
At World Series of Fighting 4, Newell not only held onto his spotless MMA record of 10-0 when he submitted Keon Caldwell, but he also made any naysayers take note of his capabilities.
Newell was born with a congenital amputation of his left arm, but has never used his disability as an excuse to hold him back in life. Instead, the 27-year-old fighter has shown that he’s able to perform at a high level in one of the toughest sports in which to compete. A former wrestler at Western New England University, Newell constantly pushes himself to get to the next level of competition. Last Saturday, Newell came out guns blazing and managed to submit Caldwell at 2:07 in the opening round by way of guillotine. Caldwell had previously only lost once in his professional career.
“I worked very hard for that fight, for that stage, and there was a lot on the line,” said Newell. “For first time viewers it was a bigger show on a huge network. A lot of people would have felt the pressure, but for me it was just another fight. Every fight’s a tough fight. He was super powerful and dangerous and athletic. I just kept my cool and I stayed calm and I knew what I had to do. I came into the fight, not with a set game plan, but with a strategy on how to beat him. I followed through like a charm and got the job done in the first round.”
His performance earned him an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter, he was trending worldwide on Twitter and the United States Marine Corps honored him inside the cage for his inspirational performance. Those were all big steps for Newell who admitted he used to have a hard time booking fights because others didn’t know what to make of signing on to brawl with a one-armed fighter.
“Now, I’m fighting real fighters. Back in the day it was a problem, but not so much anymore, because I was just fighting wannabe guys at a local level – guys that fight to impress girls or because they want people to think they’re tough. If you’re worried about a Catch-22 in MMA then you shouldn’t be fighting, especially at a high level,” said Newell.
Performing in front of a live audience of 5,000 and on national television is an opportunity for Newell to open people’s minds. Eventually he hopes the masses will perceive him as they would any normal athlete, beyond his disability.
The former XFC champion left that organization stating that he wanted to battle top talent. Once he became a free agent, Newell decided to sign with the Las Vegas-based promotion, WSOF. While Newell is content competing with WSOF, he also believes that he could contend with the UFC’s elite if put to the test.
“That’s really the only [promotion] that’s bigger,” said Newell. “But I love the way World Series promotes their fighters and they put me on the main card which is amazing. UFC is the biggest, I could compete with anyone in the UFC and make it a good fight. I’ve been saying that forever, it’s just no one believed me until probably now.”
“I was a free agent and I signed with World Series of Fighting and I couldn’t be happier. They’re on the up and they really know what they’re doing. I’m not going to complain and like say I want to be somewhere else. I’m very happy.”
Currently, WSOF has announced that they are planning to hold a 4-man lightweight tournament. Newell earned a berth in the tournament with his defeat of Caldwell. While no date or information has been given as to when the tournament will occur, it is also expected to feature Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, Justin Gaethje and Dan Lauzon.
As Newell continues to barrel ahead proving he’s an emerging lightweight to watch in MMA, he broke down his thoughts on his possible adversaries.
“You look at the tournament and you see probably Gaethje’s the favorite. He’s the most unknown probably, but he certainly is a beast. You look what he did to Brian Cobb and how he came out and swarmed JZ with the cut stoppage. He already has a win over JZ who would be the favorite,” said Newell.
“Then you got Dan Lauzon who looked absolutely phenomenal in his last fight, very well composed, humongous 155 pounder. It seems like he hit his stride and completely transformed himself into a better fighter.”
“Then you have JZ who’s a legend of the sport, has done more to improve himself,” Newell continued. “Some people thought he was fading a little bit, but then he goes out and puts on a performance like he did and beats Tyson Griffin and really showed everyone that he hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s a great competitor and he’s tough, someone I was watching before I even trained. I was like ‘wow this guy’s phenomenal.’ I’m a huge fan.”
“I’m pretty much cool with fighting whoever. Whoever the World Series or the fans want,” Newell said of who he’d want to face first. “On any given day, anyone in that tournament can beat the other one. It just depends on who shows up and how well you perform.”