B/R Interview with One-Armed, Undefeated MMA Fighter Nick Newell

Gregory Chase@FightersCreedCorrespondent IApril 7, 2012

Nick Newell is an exciting lightweight fighter, currently fighting in the XFC. His record is 6-0, with each one of his wins ending in the first round.

He started off his professional career with a TKO victory. He then went on to secure five submission wins including two armbars, two rear-naked chokes and one heel hook. He will be fighting at XFC 17 on April 13 in Jackson, Tenn., against Chris Coggins.

Born missing his left hand and most of his left forearm, Newell has overcome adversity and shown what having heart and determination can do.  

Newell sat down with Bleacher Report's Gregory Chase for a talk about his upcoming fight, his background, how he got into MMA and how he competes as a fighter while only having one full arm to work with.

Check out the video above, or read the transcript below!

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GC: Sitting here at Ultimate MMA with Nick Newell in Connecticut. You have a fight coming up on April 13 at XFC 17: Apocalypse against Chris Coggins who is 5-1. How do you see this fight going? 

NN: I’m gonna win wherever the fight goes. I’m prepared for a five-round battle, even though it is only a three round fight, and you know, I’m going to be looking to do what I normally do and that’s push the pace and make it MY fight. If I can finish it quick, then I’ll finish it quick. But Chris is a tough guy, and he’s got a great record. He beat a guy who has wins over UFC guys, and he was good as an amateur too, so he’s got a lot of experience, and he’s tough; well rounded fighter, so I expect it to be a good fight, but in the end I’m gonna win because I’m going to be better than him wherever the fight goes. 

GC: Coggins is coming off of three submission victories, and you have your own run of submission victories right now. What does mean to you? How does that change up your gameplan? How do you approach this fight differently? 

NN: You know, I’m a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, under Andrew Calandrelli. I’m not too worried about his submissions. Obviously I’m going to respect his game, but if you’re going to beat me on the ground, you’re going to have to be pretty damn good. I’m comfortable if it goes to the ground. I think that him saying that he’s going to knock me out tells me that he’s uncomfortable going to the ground with me. He has three submissions out of all his wins, I have five, and he’s got three armbars in a row, so obviously I’m going to watch out for that. But I also have two armbar wins as a pro and I have another armbar win as an amateur, so does that mean I’m an armbar guy, too? (laughs). I’m prepared for whatever he gives me, whatever he brings my way. 

GC: Have you done anything different to prepare for Coggins? 

NN: No, my training camp is usually the same. I’m going to work hard regardless. He wanted to do a catchweight fight at 152 pounds, so that kinda made me train a little bit harder, because I’m a little worried about making weight more, but no matter who I fight I always have a ton of respect for them. I just train as hard as I can and just get ready for anything…because something can click in a guy and he can be different from one day to the next, so you never know what you’re going against. 

GC: He’s going to be fighting in his home state; does the crowd ever affect you at all? Do you let that get to you?

NN: No, I mean I don’t even really hear the crowd. When I fight, I just hear my coaches, that’s about it. When I go through my head, I do a lot of visualizations. I visualize myself, everyone cheering for me (laughs). So no matter what happens, I’m just gonna picture that. My last fight I fought a guy in his home state and everyone cheered for me too, so it doesn’t really matter to me. But I think I’m a pretty respectful guy and stuff like that. I don’t really care if people boo me, but I try to give them a bunch of reasons not to (laughs). 

GC: One of the biggest hypes about you is how successful you are, and yet you only have one hand to work with. You’ve had one hand since birth, you didn’t have it then lost. Have you found in MMA that your left arm sort of wants to do what the right does, or does it just feel completely natural? 

NN: This is how I was born, it’s all natural for me. It would be nice sometimes to have a little length…to be able to throw a cross. But I compensate well and I mix it in with my elbows. That actually gives me a style that’s kinda really unorthodox , and it’s hard for a lot of people to get a read on. You know, so there’s the give and the takes. I can’t throw a cross, but it’s forced me to get better at everything else I throw, and it’s helped my gap with my elbow and mixing up the attacks and coming in at weird angles. 

GC: In training how do you adapt with your arm, where do you see the biggest disadvantages with it, and where do you see the biggest advantages? 

NN: It’s all just natural. There’s not much of a difference. My grip is a little tighter, but I just have to get deeper. If other people did moves as deep as I do, then their grip would be crazy tight too, there’s really no difference. The one thing is that before I started, if I was getting attention before I started they’d say “Oh, this guy could never fight! How’s he ever gonna tap someone out or grab someone?” or do something like that. You know, I did it, I went and I did it, and now I’m doing it and people are saying “Oh, that’s an advantage!” now. People are just gonna say things no matter what, but I have a lot of supporters too that are behind me 100 percent, so I’m trying to focus more on that stuff [smiles]. 

GC: Are there rules or regulations that you have run into because of your arm? You had mentioned on Inside MMA that it was hard to get fights for yourself, for instance. 

NN: Yeah, not a lot of people wanted to fight me, locally. They all wanted to protect their records. They try to use my arm as an excuse to duck me, because they knew that they were going to lose. When I was just an amateur, I didn’t really have that much trouble finding a fight, or my first pro fight or anything like that. But once people kinda figured out that I was good, they kinda used it as a way like “Oh, I’ll kill that guy!” If you can kill me, why don’t you fight me, you know, if it’s an easy win? 

GC: Did you run into anything as far as requirements of wearing padding. Is there any kinds of rules in place that say what you can or can’t throw as far as strikes? 

NN: Here’s the thing, the issue that a lot of people bring up, and I’m actually happy that you brought this up. Because a lot of people are like “Oh, he’s hitting with his arm, that’s cheating!” I hit with my elbow, so there’s no special rules, there’s nothing different. I don’t hit with the end of it [points to arm]. If I did, it would hurt me more than it would hurt the other guy. It would jam my arm. I just don’t hit with the end of it. There’s nothing sharp or anything in here, it’s just an elbow just like everyone else, and if I had to wear an elbow pad I think that my opponent should have to wear one too. 

GC: Now you were recently on Inside MMA, you went down and there was Roy Nelson and Cung Le there, what was that experience like? 

NN: That was cool. It was a little bit hectic because I just flew in, got something to eat, did the show, went to bed and flew out the next day. But it was cool. I’ve met Bas (Rutten) a couple of times, and he’s always been a cool, like kinda crazy guy. So it was good seeing him again. And it was my first time meeting Roy Nelson and Cung Le; both very cool guys and very down to earth…funny guys behind the scenes. I was surprised that we were all the same height (laughs)! Those guys are some tough dudes. 

GC: So take me through the mentality and your thought process when you saw MMA and said to yourself, I want to do that or could do that. Did you have doubts because of your arm, or had you already overcome that from wrestling back in high school? What was your thought process starting out in MMA? 

NN: Yeah, I don’t ever doubt myself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you’re pretty much just quitting on yourself before you even get started. I have an undying belief in myself and commitment to succeed and be the best at what I do and dedicate myself to that I’m 100 percent for it. When I first started, it was more of a hobby, I wanted to learn MMA moreso than just jump in there and fight. I wanted to make sure I had it down and I was good at it before I got myself into it. And then I went to go see a bunch of local fights, and like anyone that goes and sees fights that’s trained a little bit, they’re like, “Oh I think I could beat these guys,” you know, so after that I was like, “I’m fighting, that’s it!” and it’s been history ever since. 

GC: It’s quite an inspirational and compelling story of how you got into the XFC, for those who don’t know about you and your friend Abi and everything that you went through, could you give us some background and your insights on this journey you have been on. 

NN: Basically, Abi and I were like brothers, training partners, one of my best training partners. I had planned…he lived in Massachusetts, and I used to go and train with him up there. I was up there the night before and the next day there was a tryout for the XFC by my house, maybe like 20 minutes away. I had planned on going to it the whole time, but he didn’t even really plan on going. I had to kinda talk him into it almost. Not almost, I DID have to talk him into it. I was like “C’mon just stay at my house.” He was like, “I’m hungry though.” And I was like “Okay, I’ll take you to get food”. I took him to Taco Bell, or something stupid like you shouldn’t be eating the day before a tryout [smiles]. We went and tried out the next day. We both made it to the finals, but he won it, and he deserved it.

He was the best guy there by far that day. He won a contract with the XFC, got injured, couldn’t fight, and then when he was just starting to make his comeback, he got into a motorcycle accident and passed away. So basically after that, John from the XFC heard the news and they were really excited to have Abi fight for them, so they basically said I could take his contract and fight in his place. I was pretty honored that they would let me do that.

Obviously, I would like if both of us were fighting together on the same card, you know, but I’m honored to fight for the XFC. It’s a wonderful opportunity. 

GC: And they changed the name of the event to Tribute, right? 

NN: Yep, and they did a nice piece on Inside MMA on Abi. They made the whole show a tribute to him, which was very nice, since I know how much he loved MMA. 

GC: So tell me about Brian Myers, I read something that he was your roommate in college? 

NN: Yes, he was. 

GC: Did he really help acquaint you with MMA?  

NN: Well, not really, he wasn’t a fan of MMA. I mean he likes it, but he’s not INTO it, he doesn’t know any of the moves. He’s HARDCORE Pro Wrestling. I mean he’s in the WWE now, Curt Hawkins. But he did help me get into MMA because he loved Monday Night Raw so much that he used to watch it every week. And it was back when Raw was on Spike TV, and then after Raw they said “Hey, there’s this new show: The Ultimate Fighter.” And I was like “What IS this?!”. I had watched fights before, but I didn’t’ really get it until I watched TUF, and then I was like “Oh, okay this is cool, I gotta start doing this.” So Monday Night Raw and pro wrestling got me into MMA. 

GC: Out of all the fighters from the Ultimate Fighter show, who would say is your favorite? 

NN: Talent wise, I’d say the first season and the fifth season probably had the most talent. There’s a lot of guys coming through right now that are pretty good. My favorite fighters are guys that haven’t been on TUF, but I have a respect for and I’m a fan of a lot of guys that were on the show. 

GC: Is TUF something you would want to do? 

NN: Right now, I’m with the XFC and they’re treating me pretty well. I just want to fight the best fighters out there. If the UFC comes calling one day, I’ll be ready, but I’m happy where I am right now. Whenever they’re ready to have me…definitely. 

GC: So in your career so far, and training, have you found a particular move or technique that you like or favor more than others? 

NN: Back in the day…when I didn’t know what I was doing as much, I used to have moves I did better than other ones, but right now I’d say I’m pretty well-rounded. Expect everything to come from me. I’m getting my triangles just as good as my rear naked chokes. 

GC: You said you had some mottos that you live by in another interview, what are some of those mottos, or any other words of wisdom you have followed?  Any good advice you were given? 

NN: Never quit because something is too hard. Just believe in yourself and just know that you can do anything. You can’t stop someone who is determined to do something. If you want something bad enough you have to go out there and get it, and no matter what obstacles you face out there you can still do it. What they don’t see is this [puts hand on chest], that’s the heart. You can see that I have one hand and you can judge me by that, but you can never see what’s inside of me. A lot of people have everything on the outside, but have nothing on the inside. And I can tell you that I will fight to the death [smiles]! 

GC: Now on your website you are labeled as a motivational speaker. So if you had one message to get across to everyone, what would it be? 

NN: Like I just said, you can’t just sit around and expect the world to give everything to you. Sometimes things don’t go your way. Sometimes you’re born with one hand, or your family didn’t have a lot of money, or you have to work a couple jobs to afford something you wanted or pay to go to school. It’s not always fair, but the people that are determined, that are willing to push through that, and know what they want and set their goals and work to achieve them…you can do anything you want in this world. 

GC: Now aside from wrestling and fighting, what is one thing about you, that fans don’t know, that you would like them to know, something cool about you that doesn’t come out through regular interviews. What’s something about you that you want people to know about?  

NN: I don’t know, basically I’m just a nice guy, I'm chill, I like to relax. I try to be respectful of everyone. I graduated from Western New England University…

GC: What was your degree?

NN: In Communication. I’m basically like everyone else, but I just like to beat people up in my spare time [smiles]. 

GC: Last question, What is your official prediction for the huge fight between Nick Newell vs. Chris Coggins at XFC 17? Who wins, what round, what method? 

NN: [Exhales]…I’m going to have to go with Nick Newell on this one [smiles]. I would tell you how, but then I would give away a little bit of what I expect! 

GC: Well, that will wrap it up. I want to thank you Nick for sitting down with me and I wish you the best of luck at XFC 17 and in your career going forward. 


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