No one expected Nick Newell to compete in mixed martial arts, let alone excel, but he did. When he retired at the age of 29, it seemed he had nothing left to prove. Nonetheless, “Notorious Nick” is headed back to the cage.
On Monday, Legacy Fighting Alliance announced that the promotion had signed Newell to a multi-fight deal, ending his nearly 23-month retirement. No prospective date or opponent have been announced for Newell's return bout.
Newell, 31, was born with congenital amputation of his left arm, which ends just below his elbow. He turned pro in June 2009 and racked up a 13-1 pro MMA mark in just over six years of competition. Despite his disability, Newell racked up 10 stoppages in his career, including eight via submission.
After winning the Xtreme Fighting Championships lightweight title in December 2012, the Milford, Conn. native made the jump to World Series of Fighting, where he would achieve his greatest success and visibility. In July 2014, Newell fought undefeated lightweight Justin Gaethje for the WSOF lightweight crown and was dominated en route to a second-round knockout loss at World Series of Fighting 11, the promotion's debut on network television, which aired live on NBC. He would fight twice more for the promotion, earning unanimous decisions over Joe Condon, then Tom Marcellino, before announcing his retirement.
Newell cited a constellation of injuries, mostly a severe back injury, as the catalyst for hanging his gloves up.
“My last three camps, I haven't been able to really show what I'm capable of. My knowledge is getting higher and I'm getting better at the sport, but my body isn't able to keep up the way I used to,” a tearful Newell told Sherdog.com immediately following his October 2015 retirement. “I can't perform like I used to and when enough is enough, I don't want to be that guy fighting for a paycheck.”
“It's time for me to just switch it up and do something else. In my heart, I still love this sport and I love competing, but my body just can't keep up with it. I can't do a training camp. I can't. Too many injuries.”