Nick Newell signing would be meteoric message for athletes of limb-difference

In a world full of able-bodied athletes, it can be tough to be taken seriously as a one-handed combatant. For ‘Notorious’ Nick Newell (14-1), the doubters have never held him back.

Since his early professional days with XFC where he’d eventually capture the lightweight crown, many eyes had been on his performances just to see how he’d perform next. Rather than there be an interest in sheer talent alone, there was an element of inspiration and a unique situation presented along with it that kept people watching and kept having questions of him be answered.

Once his surge up through the ranks led him to WSOF on a question for a second lightweight title, Newell went on to challenge the ruthless Justin Gaethje for the gold – a bout that served Newell his first professional loss. It wasn’t long before the questions sprang up to the limit of Nick’s talent. With hindsight being 20/20, the loss to now UFC contender and three-time Fight of the Year candidate Gaethje isn’t such a bad L to have on a previously undented record.

Nick later returned to action the following year in a unanimous decision victory over Joe Condon. A performance that, despite the win, led him to retirement. Throughout the performance and in his post-fight speech, the submission artist didn’t seem to be his usual self as he announced his retirement from competition.

Nick seemed happy living a recently married life, teaching at Fighting Arts Academy back home in Connecticut, helping the next generation. He’d left a mark and made a name for himself.

That was until early last year as he announced he was out of retirement, signing with LFA and training for his comeback fight. After an almost three year hiatus from competition, Newell returned for another first round submission in the main event of LFA 35 versus Sonny Luque and since then has been harping at the UFC again for his chance in the big league. It looks like the Nick of old rather than the Newell of retirement.

This isn’t the first time his name and the UFC have crossed paths. Dana White once stated it was hard enough to fight with two hands – let alone one. A notion that hadn’t sat well with many, seeing what Newell was capable of doing in the cage. However, it’s the same notion that was spat in 2011 when the issue of women fighting in the promotion was deemed impossible.

Following a secretive meeting in Las Vegas this week with Dana White, Newell’s next step, or destiny if you will, is seemingly hanging on one phone call with one of two outcomes: a yes or a no.

A yes would mean a massive breakthrough into one of the most elite sports leagues in the world. It would be a profound barrier breaker whilst providing the UFC with a more open-minded and accepting position.

As a person with a limb-difference myself who trains in MMA, I can appreciate the level of adaption and skill Newell possesses as well as his persistence to earn his shot in the leading promotion amongst the many elite lightweight fighters on the planet. If a positive phone call is to be received on the other end of Nick’s telephone, it would break ground not only for him by him, but make room for others with differences trying to recreate this story in another sport.

I believe there are many names in the UFC that Nick can match with in terms of skill. At 14-1, with his opponents having over one hundred in-cage victories in between themOn the other hand, while a no would be anticlimactic, it wouldn’t be something to be get too cross about. It would make a fantastic story should a signing occur, but fighting is real life and there’s nothing pretty to it.
If the UFC suggested that, having been away a few years and that one or two bigger, better names than Sonny Luque had to be conquered or even that a quest for the LFA title would reach the capacity for signing, I wouldn’t be too mad at that. It’s time away and one win as well as the competition at hand can sometimes blur the outcome.

Theoretically, there’s even the possibility that, should he be signed and come up short against tough opposition, that a larger audience may see it in a different light due to his difference, which from a promotional point of view could ultimately backfire on the UFC. Then again, this is business and the UFC was made on taking risks.

Look, I’m a sucker for a good story – who isn’t? Nick has been a large proponent for fair play and progressiveness in MMA, changing the realm of what people see is possible. He’s accumulated big wins previously and, personally, I’d like to see him in there. There are lightweight scalps that he can attain. How deep into the rankings he can reach, though, is something we can only see should his signature be inked across the dotted line.