Can One-Handed Regional MMA Champion Nick Newell Do Enough to Get into the UFC?

Matthew RothFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

Photo courtesy of Richo's Photography
Photo courtesy of Richo's Photography

At XFC 21 on AXS TV, Nick Newell captured the lightweight title in an amazing performance against Eric Reynolds, scoring a submission finish in just 82 seconds. The victory itself wouldn't normally turn any heads; fighters win regional titles all the time.

What makes Newell's win a unique case is that he did it one-handed. Newell was born with congenital amputation, causing his left arm to cut off below the elbow. His story is incredibly inspiring, as he has gone undefeated in nine professional outings. 

Every time Newell fights, he goes for the finish. The heel hook he used against Denis Hernandez last year at XFC 15 was particularly cringeworthy. The knee that finished David Mayes in August at XFC 19 was equally brutal.

Following his victory over Reynolds, people began to discuss a potential move to the UFC. Their case was sound, as there are plenty of fighters on the UFC roster that cut their teeth on the regional level before getting called up to the majors.

Reynolds is no pushover. He faced former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 5 in the lightweight semifinals and was able to stay competitive through two rounds before getting finished in the third. 

It speaks volumes to Newell's skills that he could finish Reynolds so quickly in the first round. But unfortunately, as skilled as he is, he's likely never going to realize his dream of fighting in the UFC

Newell is the most successful case, but he's not the first person with a handicap who's tried to make a run in this sport. A few years ago, Kyle Maynard attempted to be the first quadruple congenital amputee to compete in MMA

Maynard was a successful high school wrestler and was certain that he could remain competitive in a cage. He would make his first and only foray into MMA at the Auburn Covered Arena in Auburn, Alabama. (To call it an arena is a stretch, actually. With dirt floors and wooden bleachers, it's essentially a large barn.) 

It was one of the most uncomfortable fights I've ever seen. Not because it was bloody and violent, but because for three rounds, his opponent punched him in the face from distance as Maynard chased him on all fours. 

Maynard ultimately lost the fight by unanimous decision. However, had he been successful in his debut and put together a string of wins, would fans and media be discussing a possible UFC run? 

Following the UFC 155 pre-fight press conference, Dana White was asked if he'd have any interest in promoting a fighter such as Newell who has a very clear handicap.

White wouldn't commit one way or the other, and for good reason. He has been extremely protective of the way his promotion is portrayed in the media and wants to maintain its image. 

"It's hard to fight with two arms, you know what I mean? Maybe, I don't know. I don't know. He hasn't fought in Nevada or any of the big states," White told the attending media. "There's guys that are out there that we bring in that are considered top guys for The Ultimate Fighter that don't ever really pan out.

"I don't know if the state of Nevada would let him fight. Would the state of California let him fight? I don't know. I have no idea. Fighting with one arm is just crazy."

Newell's rise is a great story. The fact that he is undefeated speaks to his abilities and his work ethic. That said, his win over Reynolds may be the the most notable moment of his career. 

No matter how good of a fighter he becomes, the promotion will always go back to his handicap instead of his skill set. 

Nick Newell may be an amazing story, but it's likely one that ends on the regional scene. 


All quotes attained first hand by Bleacher Report lead writer Jeremy Botter.