I'd like to get a few bullet points out of the way before we dive into the heart of this story:
1. Nick Newell will not fight in the UFC.
I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams here. I applaud Newell for chasing his dreams and all of the success he has had in his career. What he's accomplished with one hand is nothing short of astonishing in combat sports; just stepping in the cage for a professional fight is a feat accomplished from a life less ordinary, and Newell is 9-0 as a professional. Kudos to him.
2. XFC has never looked more low-rent than it did on Saturday, issuing a press release featuring a "media conference" that allegedly took place this morning at 9 a.m.
This is a true story: My lady friend and I were driving to lunch on Saturday, and she received the "press release" from XFC discussing how Newell didn't want to fight challenger Scott Holtzman. It said the comments came from XFC president John Prisco during a media conference in the morning.
In reality, this was an interview conducted by XFC public relations—whom I assume is someone related to Prisco—wherein Prisco went on a Newell-bashing spree. Prisco exhibited his complete lack of promotional knowledge by thoroughly eviscerating Newell, essentially calling him a coward:
I think Nick knows what I believe. He was going to lose. Nick knows he can’t defend himself when someone like Scott puts him on his back. I believe Scott is one of the most talented 155ers on the planet. He’s training on the West Coast right now with Benson Henderson for that very reason. In my eyes, I saw the fight going first-round stoppage—Holtzman by ground and pound.
Looks like Prisco needs to head back to promoter's school. You never, ever bash one of your fighters, even if that fighter is on his way out of the organization. Likewise, you never pick a winner of a fight, even if it ends up being scrapped.
Because—and you know this rings true—you can never say never in mixed martial arts. Prisco may believe that Newell will never fight for him again, but there may come a day when Prisco is desperate for someone with half a bit of name value to fight for his organization.
I know this isn't the most comfortable subject in the world. We all want Newell to succeed in life.
But here's the honest truth, and you can take this to the bank: It doesn't matter if Newell runs up a career record of 25-0 fighting guys you've never heard of on the independent scene, because he will never, ever sign a contract with the UFC.
This isn't a slight on Newell. Again, what he's accomplished thus far is nothing short of breathtaking. But mixed martial arts, despite making major inroads in popular culture, still isn't a mainstream sport.
I'm of the opinion that it will never be a mainstream sport, simply because it's a sport where two men get inside a cage and punch and kick each other in the face. I have no problem with this idea, but I'm also cognizant that such a thing will never be accepted by society at large.
But that doesn't mean that White and the UFC aren't going to do everything they can to make their business acceptable for as many people as possible. And whether you like it or not, that includes keeping Newell out of the Octagon.
Imagine that someone who has never before seen a UFC event tunes into Fox and sees Newell fighting in the cage. What goes through their mind? Do they see the glory and the courage that Newell has exhibited thus far in his career? Of course not.
They don't consider that Newell is hanging in there or that he's on equal footing with this opponent.
They only see the freak show. They're disgusted—and again, this is without knowing anything of the real story—and they turn the TV off, never to watch again.
He'll never say so publicly, but this is why White deftly avoids any questions about Newell. He never gives a real answer when asked about the possibility of Newell fighting in the UFC. For a while, he pretended that he had never heard of Newell, but that only works for so long before the jig is up.
These days, he simply passes by the question, allowing it to float away like a cloud on a summer day.
One second, he's facing questions about Newell. Ten seconds later, it's like the question never existed, and he's on to the next topic. Or he quickly mutters something about the idea of Newell fighting being up to the local athletic commissions, even though they have already sanctioned Newell for previous bouts.
When in doubt, blame Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
But that's how this situation is going to go, for now and forever. Newell will plead with White on Twitter to be a replacement fighter. He'll talk about just wanting a chance to prove he can hang with the best. And here's the thing: He might be able to hang with the best.
But the truth is that we'll never find out if he can hang with the best, because the UFC isn't going to sign him. Newell's best hope for a career in mixed martial arts lies on the independent scene, where he can headline cards on AXS and carve out a niche for himself.
And once promotions like XFC realize that Newell is the best thing that ever happened to them, maybe they'll stop trying to act like White and the UFC and instead act like the small feeder promotions they are.