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Nick Newell began his professional mixed martial arts career in 2009, when he won his first fight with a first-round knockout. From there, the Connecticut native racked up a series of submission wins, picked up an Xtreme Fighting Championships title and carved out a path to the World Series of Fighting.
Newell won his first two fights with the WSOF to improve to 11-0 and took on lightweight champion Justin Gaethje at WSOF 11 on July 5, 2014. He lost to Gaethje by second-round technical knockout, returned to the win column in his next two bouts and announced his retirement in 2015 at the age of 29.
However, it was only a matter of time before he got the itch to fight again. Newell returned to action at Legacy Fighting Alliance 35 on March 9, submitted Sonny Luque with a rear-naked choke and reminded fans of his considerable abilities. He has already fought the best of the best, come up short and rebounded, so he has little left to prove.
Newell’s next assignment could push him to the next level, as he vies for an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. When White was asked about Newell and why he has taken this route, the UFC president indicated he asked for it. The 32-year-old congenital amputee asked White to give him a chance on the contender series, if he had questions about his ability to compete in the UFC. White’s response? “Fair enough.”
White went on to add that he was taking a risk by extending the offer to Newell, especially if he were to be injured in his fight with Alex Munoz on Tuesday in Las Vegas. The Fighting Arts Academy rep seems likely to shrug at the assertion. His congenital amputation -- he was born without part of his left arm -- did not stop him from succeeding as a wrestler or battling his way to title shots in two MMA promotions. About the worst thing that could happen to him at this point would be to get overlooked by the one place he wants to fight most.
MMA continues to expand, leaving a fighter like Newell with plenty of options. He does not need the UFC, but he wants to be there; and with his record and fan base, the company probably needs him more than he needs it.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since UFC 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.