After watching the amazing card that was the UFC on Fox 4, I was still in the mood to watch more MMA, so I watched most of the XFC 19 card that had taken place the night before. It was an overall entertaining card, with all the highlight reel finishes you hope to see at the regional level. One of those spectacular finishes belonged to the XFC's most well known commodity, "Notorious" Nick Newell. While Newell holds a perfect professional MMA record of 8-0 with 7 first round finishes, he is most well known for his "disability". Newell suffers from a condition called congenital amputation, which caused his left arm to stop developing at the elbow.
This sort of a problem would keep most people away from anything resembling combat sports, but Newell excelled as a high school and collegiate wrestler in spite of the handicap. He got into MMA watching the first TUF as a college student, and was immediately hooked on the sport.
Newell's big break came by the way of XFC open tryouts, where he and friend Abi Mestre, both trying out for the one available spot, got the attention of the fledgling promotion. Mestre got the contract, but was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident before having the opportunity to fight for the organization. The XFC offered the contract to Newell, and he made his debut with the promotion at XFC 15:Tribute (the tribute was added out of respect for Mestre) with a devastating heel hook submission over Denis Hernandez. Newell began receiving media coverage for the first time, and he has shined under the spotlight, going 3-0 in the XFC, including a violent KO via a knee strike this past Friday that you can watch in the video above.
Keep reading after the jump for the pros and cons to seeing Newell on the biggest stage in the sportI know that many people will immediately dismiss any thoughts of the UFC taking a shot at a guy that has no left hand or forearm, but I think the pros actually far outweigh the cons. I'm admittedly a bit of a sucker for the underdog and feel good stories, but I think there is more to Newell as a fighter than just a good story.
To make this point completely clear: I DO NOT think the UFC should sign him for "freak show" ratings. I am basing this on what he can do in the cage, as a fighter. His 8-0 record is a good place to start on that. With 7 wins in the first round and only one decision on his record, he certainly has a similar background to many other regional fighters that get a chance in the UFC. His level of competition had been far from great, even though a lot of that is out of his control.
One of the downsides to a fighter with his particular handicap is finding credible competition for him. Many good fighters look at fighting him as a lose-lose proposition, and understandably so. With a win, all they did was beat a one armed man, and a loss would be devastating to their legitimacy as a fighter. This would be the biggest downside to a potential UFC singing, in my opinion. Would UFC fighters actually be willing to step in the cage with a one armed opponent?
One question that I think should be asked, however, is would the UFC take a look at him if he had two hands? An 8-0 record with quite a few spectacular finishes is often enough to get a call from the UFC for a regional fighter, especially with 2 finishes that many people saw due to the coverage of AXS TV (formerly HDNet). I don't think Newell should automatically be discounted because of his disability, nor do I think he should get preferential treatment because of it. Based on his record as a professional, he has done all the right things to advance his career, including fighter better opponents as of late and improving his striking greatly.
I in no way want to imply that the UFC is discriminating against Newell because of his situation, because there is no reason to think that. The are many fighters that have similar or better records that have not gotten their shots either. I do think, however, that the upside for the UFC could be great if they handled the situation well, for a number of reasons.
The UFC needs to increase their casual viewer base, and The Ultimate Fighter, one of their best tools for bringing in new fans for a long time, is fading quickly into obscurity. I think giving Nick Newell a TUF spot could do wonders for the show. Casual fans would be more likely to hear a buzz about the show like they have not for a long time. A TUF spot would also (at least temporarily) solve the booking issues with a fighter like Newell. The fighters there have no say in who they fight, so they cannot simply turn down a proposed bout with the one handed fighter.
It would not surprise me in the least for a Newell TUF appearance to give the UFC a much needed ratings boost, and if he continues to win could offer a fighter that fans would get behind, making marketing him much easier than most of the roster. Just as Newell has found ways to use his handicap to his advantage, the UFC can do the same from a promotional standpoint. If he gets his chance and can't cut it, the UFC receives a temporary ratings spike, and Newell returns to the regional circuit to terrorize local fighters. Nothing would be lost there for either side.
I think it would be a smart business decision for the UFC to give Newell a serious look if he defeats Eric Reynolds for the XFC LW title in his next bout. That win would certainly give him the credibility to justify him as a legit prospect, and there is always a place in the UFC for a fighter on the rise while steadily improving.
What do you guys think on the topic? Say whatever you want about it in the comments.