Nick Newell, who was born without a left hand, will fight Justin Gaethje for the WSOF title in July. (Getty)
LAS VEGAS – Nick Newell, the unbeaten lightweight who was born without a left hand, will get a shot at the World Series of Fighting title when he takes on champion Justin Gaethje in July, WSOF executive vice president Ali Abdelaziz told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. The exact date and venue have not been selected yet.
Newell is 11-0 overall in his mixed martial arts career and 2-0 in the WSOF. He scored submission victories last year by guillotine choke over Keon Caldwell at WSOF 4 on Aug. 10 and Sabah Fadai at WSOF 7 on Dec. 7.
Because of his success despite the congenital amputation – his left arm ends three inches below his elbow – Newell is one of the most talked about fighters outside of the UFC. But Abdelaziz said the World Series is not trading on Newell's disability.
His performances against Caldwell and Fadal, each of which ended in the first round, earned him the shot. Newell was previously the XFC lightweight champion.
"I had no choice but to give this to him, because he earned it," Abdelaziz said of the title shot.
Newell told Yahoo Sports in 2012 that he didn't want to be known as a one-handed fighter and would prefer to be known for his skills, but said he understands how he will be viewed.
"Obviously, I would love to be judged and recognized solely as a fighter and for my skills, positive or negative, as a fighter," Newell said. "But I know that I'm known as the guy with one hand who fights. But that's OK. If I go to get a cheeseburger, I'm the guy with one hand who is eating a cheeseburger. It's how people view me, but I'm more than that."
Newell has made it clear that his goal is to fight in the UFC, but so far, neither UFC president Dana White nor CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has shown an interest in signing him.
Abdelaziz said he spoke with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva about Newell's interest in signing with the promotion. He said he wouldn't hold Newell back if the UFC came calling, much the same way he didn't stand in Anthony Johnson's way when the UFC offered Johnson a contract.
But Abdelaziz knows that he is giving Newell a critical opportunity.
"He was honest with me from the first time I spoke with him and he said his dream was to fight in the UFC," Abdelaziz said. "That's where he wants to be, and I understand that. I called Joe Silva and talked to him about the kid and told him how badly this kid wants it. Joe said, 'You're making me feel like a piece of [expletive], but he needs to fight some tough competition and get some wins.' That's what we're giving him.
"He's come over here and he's been excellent. He has fought his way to this [title shot]. And if we can help a guy fulfill a longtime dream, then that's great. That's what we want to do."
Newell has ended 10 of his 11 fights in the first round, all but two of those by submission. He's only spent 3:28 cumulative time in the cage in his two World Series bouts, going 2:07 against Caldwell and then finishing Fadai in 1:21.
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