Regional MMA fighter Nick Newell has been laboring for a shot in the UFC, but his campaign has taken a major step backward.
According to a press release from the Florida-based "Xtreme Fighting Championships" (XFC) promotion, the one-armed fighter has been stripped of the promotion's lightweight title for allegedly refusing to make his very first title defense at XFC 24.
As XFC president John Prisco relayed to MMA media on Friday morning, Newell wouldn't face challenger Scott Holtzman, demanding an ex-UFC opponent instead.
Prisco expressed his disappointment in Newell, who has struggled to find competition in the regional MMA circuit due to his physical handicap—but a new belt will be on the line for Holtzman, with a new opponent soon to be named:
Listen, when Nick came to us at the XFC Tryouts, his biggest complaint was that no one would take a fight against him. Everyone was telling him, it's a no-win situation taking the fight. If you beat him, you beat a guy with half an arm… and if you lose, you just lost to a guy with half an arm. He knew by signing with our promotion that he was going to be guaranteed fights, as our fighters fight the person I put in front of them.
Nick built his name on fighters who were willing to step up and fight him. And now, the opportunity he received, he is not willing to extend to Scott, even though they both carry the same XFC record (4-0). To me, that's hypocritical and I have zero respect and no room for any individual that acts like that in my organization.
Although Newell is undefeated at 9-0 in his MMA career, his opponents prior to winning the XFC title had a combined record of 21-37.
Prisco further claimed that Newell wouldn't accept the fight because he knew "he couldn't defend himself" against a fighter like Holtzman, an undefeated wrestler who is currently training with UFC champion Benson Henderson in Arizona.
This also appears to be the end of Newell's XFC run for good, with Prisco wishing the one-armed fighter the best on "future endeavors" elsewhere.
Despite the controversy, XFC 24: Collision Course is still scheduled for its AXS TV broadcast on June 14 with six televised main-card fights, including a variety of former Strikeforce and Bellator talents across five different weight divisions.
Update: Newell has now responded to the XFC's claims, telling MMA Fighting that leaving the promotion was his sole decision. In effect, that would mean that Newell willingly vacated his XFC championship.
As he recounts, the decision was prompted by a low-ball offer for an extended contract, in addition to his contract only requiring three fights, with two more as an option:
"My contract is up and I chose not to go back to XFC," he said. "It's not about Scott Holtzman, certainly not. It's more so about me wanting to go somewhere that will guide me where I want to go. I want to go to the UFC.
"There was an interview with Dana White. I'm sure many people remember, and he said, 'Well, has he beaten anyone that was in the UFC?' And the answer's no, because I haven't had the opportunity to fight someone that was in the UFC. At 27 years old, I want to get to the top as soon as I can. No more playing around. I want to fight the guys who will get me where I want to be."
Newell added that he had no hard feeling with the XFC about the split, stating that Prisco chose his words "because he has a fight to promote."
Reportedly, Newell is now training with American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, which includes some major names like UFC fighters Tryon Woodley, Thiago Alves, Cole Miller, Dustin Poirier, Brad Pickett and Bellator's Ben Saunders.