Nick Newell is a mixed martial artist that happens to have only one complete arm. He's never asked for anything, but a chance to prove himself, and that has finally led him to the cusp of the UFC.
Newell was born without a full left arm; it stops just below his elbow. That didn't stop him from racking up over 300 victories in wrestling between his high school and collegiate careers, which he then used as a base to transition into MMA.
With a 5-1 amateur record, Newell went on an immediate tear in the professional ranks. He wasn't in it just to prove that he could at least compete, he was in it to win, and that's exactly what he has done.
Newell reeled off 11 consecutive victories, which included capturing the XFC lightweight championship, before ever tasting defeat. The first man able to solve Newell was then-WSOF-champion Justin Gaethje, who was also 11-0 at the time and now fights in the UFC. Newell took Gaethje well into the second round before succumbing to strikes.
Newell fought a couple more times following the Gaethje bout, winning both, before taking an extended leave from the sport. He returned from a two-and-a-half year hiatus to secure his third consecutive victory at LFA 35 in March of this year. His record currently stands at 14-1 with 11 of those wins coming by way of knockout or submission.
Believing he'd done enough to earn a shot in the Octagon, Newell and his manager, Ali Abdelaziz, traveled to Las Vegas to meet with UFC president Dana White, thinking he could convince him into a shot under the UFC banner.
Newell fell just short of that, but got his foot in the door.
"Nick Newell came out and met with me. We met face to face," White said at the UFC 225 post-fight press conference on Saturday. "He told me how long he's been in the sport, who he trains with, what he's done, and he's like, 'If you don't believe in me and you don't think I'm good enough, at least let me try the Contender Series.'"
Though his credentials are impeccable for a fighter that has yet to compete in the UFC, White is still hesitant to put a one-armed fighter in the Octagon.
“The big thing is, if anything ever happened to Nick Newell, if Nick Newell fights in the UFC, first thing they’re going to say is, ‘How could you let a guy with one arm fight in the UFC? You’re an idiot.’ I’m saying, what if something bad happened?" White explained.
“‘Aren’t you guys supposed to be the best? All the best fighters in the world are in the UFC. You’re going to throw a guy with one arm, fighting guys with two arms?’ You know what I’m saying. You guys know how to be negative. You know the negative stuff will happen if something bad happened.”
At the end of the day, Newell's approach worked, and White acquiesced, agreeing to put him in a bout on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series in July.
“To be honest with you, I’m not doing this for me or for the organization or anything,” White said. “I’m doing it for this kid. This kid came in and begged. This is his dream, this is what he lives for, this is what this guy has worked his whole life to do.
“He wants it so bad. And I’m sitting there going, ‘This is crazy, man, but I’m going to do it. I’m going to give you your chance.’”