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Nick Newell feels like ‘more than just a one-handed guy’ in Bellator

Once a Contender Series hopeful, Nick Newell believes UFC president Dana White was “just fixated on my arm, more than he was fixated on me.”

MMA: OCT 25 Bellator 232 Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After Nick Newell tasted defeat on Dana White’s Contender Series and lost out on an opportunity to fight in the UFC last year, it wasn’t very clear where he’d go from there.

But after one win back on the local circuit, Newell was offered a fight on the Bellator 225 preliminary card this past summer. And after winning that bout in impressive fashion, the Viacom-backed company offered Newell a multi-fight deal and a long-term spot on its roster.

After putting pen to paper in September, Newell, a congenital amputee born without most of his left arm, couldn’t be happier.

“It’s been something that I’ve wanted to do since I saw a teammate of mine fight for Bellator way back in the day,” Newell told Bloody Elbow. “It’s been kind of a long road, and a crazy road, but I appreciate every moment, and I appreciate that I’ve finally found my permanent home.”

Newell, who is 16-2 as a pro, said he was confident after his first-round submission of Corey Browning in August that it was just a matter of time before Bellator signed him to a multi-fight deal. He knew he had done enough to earn it.

“There were just a few things that needed to be ironed out, and we had to find a deal that worked for both parties,” Newell said. “And we did. Now, I’m good, I’m happy. Everything is good to go.”

Most assumed going in that Newell would be signed to the Bellator roster with a win in his debut. Newell, who meets Manny Muro at Bellator 232 on Saturday in Uncasville, Connecticut in his second Bellator appearance, said he hadn’t actually been told by Bellator ahead of the Browning fight whether or not a contract was at stake, but he had an “inkling” that one was.

“If they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t have put me on the card in the first place,” Newell said. “I bring a lot of attention. I was on the undercard, but I was the most-talked-about fight of the whole night. I was the one that they were following with cameras, I was the one that was getting interviewed the most. People were really interested in seeing it.

“I think that I’m a man of the people. I think that people can relate to me. They see that I have one hand, and although most people — 99.9 percent — have two hands, everyone has problems and obstacles that they face. People can see mine and kind of relate to me.”

Newell said he is “absolutely” happy with the specifics of his Bellator contract, calling it “a good deal.”

“The one thing with Bellator was, when we were talking, we didn’t have to play any games, we didn’t have to use any strategy,” Newell said. “We talked it over like adults and came to something that worked for both of us, and I’m very happy with the deal.”

Following his Contender Series loss, Newell knew he wouldn’t be fighting in the Octagon anytime soon, but he still had options. Bellator wasn’t the only promotion who would welcome him with open arms. If Newell wanted to, he likely could’ve signed with the likes of PFL, ONE Championship, or Rizin FF, among others. So why did he target Bellator as his next home?

Newell said he likes everything about the promotion, from its production and tournaments to the fact it hosts international shows. Newell is fighting at home again on Saturday, but he said he would also like to fight for Bellator on a different continent one day.

“I just am a fan of Bellator,” Newell said. “I just like everything that is going on.”

Newell said he’s at peace with where his career is at and has moved on from losing out on a shot in the UFC last summer. He said he appreciates how Bellator perceives him compared to how the UFC brass did.

“I think [Bellator president Scott Coker] looks past the fact that I just have one hand and looks at me as a fighter,” Newell said. “I think that (UFC president) Dana (White) was just fixated on my arm, more than he was fixated on me. I feel like I was looked at a little differently because of that. Obviously, because I have one hand, I am a draw, and I bring more people because it makes me unique. But I feel like I’m more than just a one-handed guy when I fight for Bellator. I feel like they’re just treating me like they would any other fighter, like I’m just one of the best in the world and in the big show.”

It may too early to say for sure because Newell has a lot of fight left in him, but Newell said he would like to remain with Bellator for the rest of his career.

“Bellator, to me, it’s been nothing but amazing,” Newell said. “Why would I ever want to walk away from something like that? I’m loyal to those that are good to me. Bellator has given me a home, and I’m very grateful for them.

“I said even leading up to the last fight that I planned on signing with Bellator. I could’ve left and signed somewhere else if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. I waned to stay loyal to Bellator and I wanted to be a part of that organization, so that’s exactly what I did. I’m a man of my word, and I’m finishing my career with Bellator.”