Emanuel Newton has stomped his way to the top of Bellator’s 205-pound division. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
With his third-round spinning back fist knockout of Joey Beltran last month, Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton proved that lightning can indeed strike twice.
When Newton utilized the same maneuver to finish Muhammed Lawal at Bellator 90 last year, it was viewed by many -- including “King Mo” -- as something of a fluke. Now, after putting away the durable Beltran in similar fashion, “The Hardcore Kid” believes he has silenced at least some of the doubters.
“People can see that I can set it up. Not only does it knock you down; it knocks you out. I think that anybody who has ever doubted my spinning back fist is a believer now,” Newton told Sherdog.com. “You’re always going to have your haters out there -- because that’s what people love to do. You’re going to have your keyboard warriors: the guys who are just sitting behind the keyboard eating doughnuts and not happy with their lives, but whatever. They’re the ones that fuel the fire.”
Newton enters Friday’s title defense against Linton Vassell in the Bellator 130 headliner having won six straight fights. Overall, the Californian has lost just once in 13 outings since 2010. It has been a slow road, but the 30-year-old is gradually receiving the attention that comes with an extended period of success. Newton isn’t leaving an imprint for his in-cage exploits alone, however.
“I think people are definitely starting to recognize me, and also just the way I think. I talk to a lot of people, and they’re like ‘Man, the things you’re saying make a lot of f----ing sense.’ MMA fans know [I’m] different in so many different ways, so they can’t help but like me.”
Still, Newton doesn’t spend much time pondering his place among the light heavyweight hierarchy. While Bellator has signed box office draws such as Quinton Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Lawal and Stephan Bonnar in recent months, Newton is confident in his place atop the division. If others get more attention, he knows they still have to get through him if they want to wear 205-pound gold.
“Pride, vanity and lust are the three things holding man back now. If I were a prideful man, I’d be like, ‘I’ll be the guy getting all this and getting all that, getting all this recognition and blah blah blah.’ I really don’t care. I know that I’m the champion. I know that in order to really stake their claim in Bellator they have to become the champion, and I’m the champion, so they have to come through me first.”
Like Beltran before him, Vassell was not the opponent Newton was initially expected to receive. Under the promotion’s old tournament format, “Rampage” earned the right to face Newton after besting Lawal at Bellator’s inaugural pay-per-view event in May.
Meanwhile, Liam McGeary made his way through the most recent light heavyweight bracket to earn a title shot, but the Englishman wanted some time off before cashing in that opportunity. In the meantime, Newton wanted to stay active, and Bellator has been accommodating in that regard.
“Bellator has really taken care of me. We said we wanted two more fights before the year was up. We maybe weren’t expecting these so back-to-back, but you get what you ask for,” Newton said. “It was given to me, so I’m going to take the opportunity and run with it.”
As for Jackson, Newton is willing to face the ex-UFC champ if the stars align, even if “Rampage” has said he is not to keen on fighting an opponent with whom he shares the same wrestling coach.
“I have to leave that up to the universe,” Newton said. “I know that Rampage has got a gym open in Laguna Beach. I know that he’s doing a lot of movie things right now. Rampage is made to be on the big screen. That’s just his personality; that’s just his style. If he wants to fight again, then I’ll be waiting. If he’s not gonna fight again, that’s just the way it is.
“Me and Rampage, we always like each other’s Instagram pictures. If we see each other, we have a good conversation. We have the same wrestling coach too. All the best to Rampage. If the time comes for us to face each other for some reason, that’ll be the time. Other than that I’m not really worried about it.”
Whether the matchup with Jackson comes or not, Newton remains focused on further establishing himself atop the Bellator mountain. That begins with taking down Vassell.
“This is my time, it’s my belt, so it doesn’t matter what he brings to the table,” Newton said. “I’m sitting at the head of the table. I’m gonna be the first one to eat; I’m gonna be the first one to finish and I’m gonna be the first one to get up and put my plate in the sink.”