Nick Newell is a public phenom in the mixed martial arts world. Being born with congenital amputation, he is missing most of his left arm and has been since birth. Many people concentrate on that about Newell, but he is more than just that. He’s a fighter, a father, a son. Instead of writing up an interview and asking Newell a bunch of questions about his arm, I asked him some real questions, and one question about his arm that he doesn’t get asked very often in an attempt to get to know Newell as a person.
Nick Newell: The Martial Artist
Starting out in martial arts, it was wrestling that got Newell involved. He joined his high school team at the encouragement of his father. He knew of MMA early on but wasn’t immediately hooked on it as a lot of fighters are.It wasn’t until later that Nick Newell trained mixed martial arts.
“When I was younger and I was a little kid, my dad wanted me to wrestle because he wrestled for a year in high school. He wasn’t really hardcore but he thought it would be good for me to learn how wrestle. But I didn’t want to wrestle. I wanted to play soccer and baseball. So I did that. When I got to high school, I was really into pro wrestling and I would watch that. I would wrestle around with one of my neighbors. He said he was starting a wrestling team. I couldn’t help but say to him, ‘Man, I’ll kick your ass,’ you know? I was like, ‘I’m gonna join too.’ I ended up joining because of that. Then, I just kinda fell in love with wrestling and everything that was involved in it. In high school, I watched a few MMA events, but I didn’t fall in love with it until I got to college and found out there was a school near by.”
Discussing his last loss
Newell’s last fight with Manny Muro ultimately did not go his way. He lost the fight via split decision and takes the blame on his mental focus going into that fight. He says that he’s adjusted that and looks to go out and show the world how dangerous a focused Nick Newell can be.
“I changed a few things up in my preparation. I cut out a lot of my distractions that I had in my life. A lot of people know this, a lot don’t, I own a business. I was actually moving to another location during my last camp. I would be like wake up, teach, train, and build a gym. I wasn’t sleeping at all. I was being a father. I didn’t take it as serious as I have in the past because I had all these distractions. So I talked with my family, I hired some new instructors at my gym, top level guys. I really focused on this fight.”
Newell didn’t agree with the judges decision to hand the win to Muro. He felt like he did enough in the first and second rounds to secure a razor thin victory.
“It’s tough, I definitely thought I won. I definitely won the first round and I definitely lost the third. But the second round, I hit the throw, I took the back, I almost got the rear naked choke. Just at the end of the round, I was more tired. I guess just being less tired even though you don’t do anything wins you the round. It was confusing to me. Especially since I thought I was supposed to get a home town decision,” said Newell with a laugh. “I definitely fixed those things. Instead of just going through the motions I’m out here grinding working hard and I’m pushing myself. There’s a difference.”
Finding your identity
A lot of focus goes into Nick Newell’s arm. The entire lead up to his fight on the Contender Series was based around his arm. I asked Nick if he ever gets tired of that being the focus of his career and not him as a martial artist. While it was frustrating at first, Newell understands where the questions come from. He has learned to accept that there will be many, many questions.
“A lot of the times I get asked the same question. So I have a pretty robotic answer through that and I just go through the motions because I know it’s coming. I always just do that. Really, at first I was like, ‘Stop asking me about my arm. I’m an athlete, I’m a fighter, I’m more than that.’ But the truth is, it’s a part of me. It sticks out, it makes people interested in me. It makes me a role model. Not because people are missing hands. It’s because everyone has problems and everyone has adversity they face. Mine shows. So you can see mine and I think it helps people relate to me and it’s an interesting talking point. For me, I forget. My whole family forgets and they’re with me all the time. It’s not something I really think about. When people ask me about it, I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah!’ It’s whatever. I’m kind don’t really don’t get caught up with it or get angry about many things.”
Newell on the Contender Series
As mentioned earlier, Nick Newell made an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. He lost that fight by unanimous decision. He ended up signing with Bellator after the fight because they gave him a chance to fight. When asked how he felt about being with the company, Newell had nothing but praise.
“I’m actually happier with Bellator more than anything else. They’re a great promotion, they treat me well. I can call Rich, or Scott, or Danny and talk with them person to person and explain how I’m feeling. [Losing the Contender Series fight] is good, I wouldn’t say it’s a blessing. It sucks when you lose.”
As for his opponent, Newell knows he has lost to one of the best fighters in the world. Alex Munoz has made a name off of beating people he shouldn’t. The MMA community has such a high regard for Munoz that he was set to make his UFC debut against Luis Pena at UFC Norfolk, a very tough task (Pena went on to fight LFA’s Steve Garcia).
“To be honest with you, I think Alex is one of the best fighters in the world. If you look at the next guy he fought, he fought a guy that was 13-2 and supposed to be the next big thing and he ran right through him. That is a tough opponent. I grew from it, I took from that fight. I almost had the finish twice. But, sometimes it’s your night, sometimes it’s not your night. You can’t be ashamed of your preparation. I had good preparation for that fight. I did everything I could and it just wasn’t my night. Not so much as my last fight, but this time moving forward, I’m a different man. I am a human and I figure these things out. You win, you lose, but you always learn weather you win or lose. I fix these things and I’m ready to go and I am ready to make a statement.”
And Newell will be making that statement next weekend at Bellator 241. He will be fighting a very experienced Zach Zane and the whole MMA world will be tuning in to see that fight.
Be sure to follow Nick Newell on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to follow his fight journey.