Nick Newell is a story within mixed martial arts that is being missed by the mainstream sports world. This Saturday at World Series of Fighting 11 two undefeated lightweights will enter the cage to compete for the WSOF lightweight title. Justin Gaethje will defend his title against Newell but that isn't what makes this story stand out among others in the sport. Newell is a congenital amputee that hasn't allowed his condition to stop his meteoric rise to this point.
Newell was born with a left arm that stopped just past his elbow. In a sport that demands the ability to punch, grab and wrestle, Newell has proven naysayers wrong since he first stepped into the cage to compete. Five years after his professional debut, the man known as “Notorious” has done nothing but win. His abilities allow him to stay undefeated but can't take the attention away from his condition that most would deem a disadvantage. Newell has come to terms with his condition as an athlete but doesn't let it hold him back from performing at a high level.
“I have never been like 'check me out,' I have one arm and I'm out here fighting, is that unique?” Newell told MMA Mania's C.J. Tuttle in 2013. “All I have ever done is put on exciting fights and win. If it helps market me and helps me stand out and make a living, that's cool. Whatever gets you to watch.”
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Newell's story has captured the attention of the mainstream sports industry. A few days out from the event, major sports mediums such as ESPN haven't touched the story. The main MMA page on ESPN still lists headlines that are weeks old rather than any mention of the event planned for Saturday.
There are a number of reasons that may have attributed to this situation. Newell fights in the World Series of Fighting promotion which many consider the second or third dog in the MMA promotion game. Even though the WSOF has steadily grown since their first show back in 2012, they haven't garnered much attention outside the vessels that normally cover mixed martial arts.
Another factor that may pull attention away from Newell's story is the continued increase of MMA news and action available to the industry. The Ultimate Fighting Championship just featured two shows in one day this past Saturday. This weekend features not only WSOF 11 on Saturday, but UFC 175 later that evening and UFC The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale on Sunday. Now, with the newest developments of the Chael Sonnen story, Dana White and co will be the talk of the town; taking attention away from Newell and the WSOF.
Still, Newell and Gaethje both deserve to be covered for what they will do on Saturday. The fact that a major promotion is hosting a card that will be headlined by a fighter with such a disability is a story that makes sports so enjoyable. Athletes such as Jim Abbott and Anthony Robles have inspired multitudes of people by overcoming similar challenges. Newell could be a similar story that benefits not only his career, but the promotion of the WSOF as a whole. While there is the question as to whether or not his disadvantage will “catch up with him,” Newell deserves the opportunity that he has coming on Saturday. The rest of the sports world should be aware to cheer him on.
Nick Newell will bring an 11-0 record with him into his main event confrontation on Saturday. With that he'll bring a story that's worth telling to the whole sports world. Sadly, the mainstream sports community is missing out on the opportunity to show yet another example of what makes the industry so enjoyable.
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