Nick Newell is no stranger to criticism. He has been getting it his whole life. But now, he just might get the opportunity to shut all the negative onlookers up if he is set to face off against newly crowned World Series of Fighting lightweight champion Justin Gaethje.
“I could beat everyone in the world and there would still be people who say I suck, I am not good enough, or they don’t think I could do this or that,” Newell said to fanside.com. “I have been dealing with that stuff my whole life and I just don’t listen to them. I just do my own thing. Whether you think I can or can’t it doesn’t really bother me, I am going to try and do it anyway.”
Ben Popper of SBNation took time with Newell to pick the fighter’s brain and learn more about his aspirations to overcome the obstacles and criticism, and what it takes to reach his goals in this thorough account of Newell.
Newell was born with a congenital amputation, a shortened left arm that ends just below the elbow. It was a distinction which many felt would prevent him from succeeding in the fight game. Others argued that letting him fight two-handed opponents was downright inhumane, a freak show that shouldn’t be allowed. But Newell never listened.
For Newell, the hardest part of fighting has always been finding opponents. He grew up in Milford, a working-class beach town on the Connecticut coast. His mother, Stacey, worked as a nurse and raised Nick on her own. “I always told him he was no different, never let him avoid a challenge or hardship because of his arm,” she said. “The more we treated him like everyone else, the more he believed in himself.”
These days Newell stands an imposing 185 pounds of chiseled muscle. But when he joined the wrestling squad his freshman year of high school, he was the smallest member of the team. “I was tiny, like literally 90 pounds, so it was tough to find someone my size.” In one of his first matches there was just one competitor in his weight class, a girl, so Newell had to wrestle against her, and lost in front of his entire team and home crowd. “A really proud start to my fighting career,” he says with a laugh.
That first year as a wrestler, Newell notched two wins and 22 losses. But he never thought about quitting. Wrestling became Nick’s primary outlet, a place for him to focus. “For Nick, his coaches became sort of his father figures,” explains his mother, Stacey. “They were the ones who helped to shape him and channel his drive.” Despite his small stature and shortened arm, Newell improved quickly. His physical handicap forced him to focus on his technique. By his senior year of high school, he set a state record with 53 wins, going all-state.
Newell went on to college at Western New England, where he was captain of the wrestling team. There he befriended a young man named Brian Myers who shared his passion for the theatrics of Pro Wrestling. In fact, Myers, better known as Curt Hawkins, went on to a successful career in the WWE. As college roommates, the pair would obsess over wrestling on TV. Just after Monday night wrestling finished, a mixed martial arts reality show called The Ultimate Fighter would come on. “Seeing that, I knew it was something I had to try,” says Newell.
Though this fight is very exciting for both Newell and MMA as a whole, it seems like we may have to wait to see this bout come to fruition seeing as WSOF matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz told Bleacher Report recently that,
“I said this is a fight, I think Nick Newell deserves it, but I have to talk to both camps. It’s going to be a timing issue,” he continued by saying, “I don’t know if Nick Newell will want to wait this long—until June or July. I just have to be sure both guys agree and it fits our TV schedule. It has to make sense all around because it’s such a big fight. It would go down in the summer, but it’s not confirmed yet.”Tags: Justin Gaethje, Nick Newell, wsof