Nick Newell aims to rebound from his first loss. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When mixed martial artists lose a championship fight, sometimes there is a tendency to want to get back into the cage and fight again as soon as possible, perhaps to erase the memory of their defeat. However, “Notorious” Nick Newell -- who has been off since July, when he was knocked out in the second round by World Series of Fighting lightweight champion Justin Gaethje -- is glad he stepped away from competition following the first setback of his career.
“I had a couple of injuries,” said Newell, who returns in a lightweight showcase against Joe Condon at WSOF 20 on Friday at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard, Conn. “I was beat up, and it was a rough fight. Justin is a great fighter and a great champion, and he won. It was his day. I needed a break and to take some time off. I really put a lot into that camp and beat up my body pretty bad.
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“For the past 15 years, I’ve been go, go, go,” he added. “After I lost, my coaches told me to take a step back and enjoy other things in life, so I did. I didn’t have anything to celebrate, but I wanted to rest. There were things I needed to fix in my game. I didn’t worry about being in shape or my next fight. I just wanted to get better as a fighter.”
The loss to Gaethje was Newell’s first in 12 professional appearances and just the second of his 12 fights to make it out of the first round. Newell, who was born with a congenital amputation of his left arm, has 10 finishes, including eight submissions, among his 11 wins. While uncertain as to how many he victories he needs to pile up to earn a rematch against Gaethje, he knows he wants to start moving in the right direction again, starting with Condon.
“I do feel like I was winning the [Gaethje] fight standing, and then I took a sloppy shot and he made me pay on the ground,” said Newell, who represents Fighting Arts Academy out of Springfield, Mass. “He kneed me on the ground but not on purpose. He’s a wild fighter and I thought it was a bad call, but it didn’t go my way. I’m not going to complain about it. It happens. If they want to give me a rematch, I’ll take it. I’m not going to let one setback ruin my career. I’m over that fight and ready to move on.
“If they want to give me a rematch now, I’ll take it,” he added. “If I have to win more fights, then I’ll win more fights. I’m just looking to get back in the win column and start building momentum again.”
The 29-year-old Newell is facing a well-traveled veteran of the fight game in Condon. Sporting a record of 12-7, Condon has been a professional since 2007 and has fought in 10 different promotions, including King of the Cage, Rage in the Cage and BAMMA USA. In his most recent outing, Condon scored a third-round submission of previously unbeaten Syndicate MMA export Jonathan Nunez at WSOF 17 in January.
“I think this is his 20th fight, so he does have experience,” Newell said. “He’s very relaxed. He was a little inconsistent earlier in his career, but in this sport, you’re nobody until you beat somebody and he did that in his last fight. He fought somebody they were building, and you have to watch out for that. He’s a crafty guy. Do I think he’s better than me? Absolutely not, but I do have to be on my game. I have to fight a good, tough, technical fight and I have to respect him. He beat a tough guy in his last fight.
“Matt Brown came to [the] UFC when he was like 7-7 overall and has been killing people,” he added. “Records are for DJs, and they don’t mean much to me. This fight isn’t about him, though. It’s about me. It’s about what I have, not what he has. He’s tough. I have to watch out, but this is my fight.”
The bout will serve as something of a homecoming for Newell, a Milford, Conn., native. The former Xtreme Fighting Championships titleholder claims he does not feel any additional pressure to do well in front of family and friends. In fact, Newell feels the hometown crowd will help him excel.
“I’ve sold a lot of tickets and am waiting for more from WSOF,” he said. “I think the venue is going to sell out. It’s going to be crazy, and Connecticut really loves me. I’m one of the biggest names from the area and it’s going to be crazy fighting there, but there’s no extra pressure. I’m good at zoning out the crowd. Maybe it’ll give me superpowers. I’m just going to take in the energy of the crowd and have it take me to another level.”