Rock Star Treatment: XFC Fighter Nick Newell interview exclusive with MMAmania.com

Photo of Nick Newell via XFC

Nick Newell is about as unique a fighter as there is in MMA today.

On first glance, one would think the Connecticut-based fighter would have an uphill battle with every bout he takes because he's a congenital amputee, meaning he was born without his left hand, but don't tell him that.

Despite his missing extremity, Newell was a very successful wrestler and his athletic feats continues in the cage when he decided to give the spot his full attention. With a victory earlier this month at XFC 15: Tribute against Denis Hernandez, Newell now sports a spotless 6-0 professional record with all six wins coming via first round stoppage.

One need only take a look at the incredible video of his performance to understand just how violent "Notorious" Newell is capable of being.

The inspirational combatant spoke with MMAmania.com to talk about his most recent victory, his challenges and his goals for his mixed martial arts career.

See for yourself:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): First I'd like to talk about your most recent fight. You had this incredible performance against Denis Hernandez. It was a very entertaining albeit brief bout. This was something I was wondering, when you were having that staredown before the fight and he was mad-dogging you a little bit, was that almost a good feeling to see that he was looking at you as a fighter, as any other opponent?

Nick Newell: Yeah, I haven't had a staredown like that in every fight that's for sure. He let me know he meant business at weigh-ins because at weigh-ins I was being awfully friendly to him. I shook his hand and then he got right in my face and it kind of made me a little mad (laughs) and I'm fired up, but I'd be just as fired up if he were the coolest person in the world or if I hate the guy. I didn't have any ill feelings towards Denis, I actually think he's a really cool guy now but definitely it actually got me more pumped up that he was ready to fight. I knew it was gonna be awesome.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It was a terrific all-around performance by you as well. You went out there and showcased your wrestling early, your ground and pound and I felt that it was a really slick transition. You went from being in his full guard to dropping back on a heel hook. Can you talk about what was going through your mind that made you think that would be such a good idea?

Nick Newell: Well, we were standing up and I thought I hurt him with my first punch, actually. I backed him up and I dropped down with my first shot and it worked and I was like, "I hurt him!" and I went in to throw an elbow and I missed and kinda fell over off balance but at that point he was already backed up against the cage and I was down low so I felt, "I might as well take him down," and I did that pretty easy.

He's a better wrestler than most, he has wrestling skill but I didn't feel like it was on the same level as my wrestling. I took him down and when I fell back for the heel hook, it was basically me thinking, "If I got it, I got it and if I don't get it, we can scramble back our feet and start again." He was doing a good job of controlling me off his back and was keeping me from doing too much damage with my ground and pound I thought, although I did land a couple good elbows.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With that hell hook, is it almost like your missing hand helps with your leverage, like it seemed tighter because you slipped it in easily and it looked like a very solid hold, the way you had him wrapped up.

Nick Newell: Yeah, everyone's been saying that. I feel I could have got the other side too, but that was just the side that was open and it just worked out perfect for me and I got it really tight, really fast and luckily for him, I didn't hear anything pop but I definitely wold have taken it home with me if he didn't tap out.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd like to go into your history a bit. After you finished wrestling collegiately and transitioned to mixed martial arts, I heard you started training for about years before you started fighting professionally. Is that true?

Nick Newell: Well, I started training when I was a freshman in college, but I just did it for fun. I'd do like two weeks and then I'd go once a week for like a month and it was just kind of on and off training. I got into it for a little while and then I stopped and just focused on wrestling. I really had about three months total experience after years of training. I took an amateur fight and once I was done wrestling after my senior year of college in 2008, I really started training every day and taking it super serious. I haven't really been doing it for too long and there's a lot of room for improvement.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that finding opponents has been an issue, but do you feel now that you've secured the deal with XFC, you've been seen on HDNet, you put on a great show, that it's not going to be nearly as much of an issue moving forward?

Nick Newell: The XFC is one of the top promotions around and they're only getting bigger. They're doing a good job of bringing in top up-and-coming talent mixed with former UFC talent and stuff like that. I think that I won't have trouble finding fights and there's a lot of people that want to fight on TV. Right now, even though I'll always be known as the "One-Armed Fighter," I'm really more of a legitimate fighter and I feel I'm getting taken more seriously now as a real fighter who also just happens to have one hand instead of a just a one-handed fighter.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have things changed for you already since Friday night? I saw you were already getting interviewed on ESPN radio, they talked about you on Yahoo! Sports and it seems like your popularity is exploding since your nationally televised debut.

Nick Newell: Yeah, I feel like a rock star, it's awesome. When I started fighting, and the work I put in and the people I put it in with, I always kind of knew that I'd make it to the next level and I knew I'd be a serious threat and a serious fighter because that's what I treat myself as and I don't settle for anything less. No matter what I achieve, I can do more. When I really noticed the difference was right after the fight was over. Everyone was crazy. When I fight, I zone that out. The crowd is completely out of my mind and I could have fought in a dark, empty room with the same amount of focus. I just wanted to give my mom a hug after the fight but they kind of rushed me out so I went through the crowd to go to my mom because she was outside and I just got swarmed by people and I took pictures with people for like half an hour. That's never happened to me at a local show before that.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are your thoughts about being an inspirational story to people, being something people can draw motivation from?

Nick Newell: I think it's a great thing. If you can get your motivation from me to go out there and follow your dreams and really just give it a go, how are you going to know unless you go at it and give it your all? I think I prove that if you want something bad enough, you go out and give it all you got. If I can inspire someone to do that, that's awesome because that's the attitude that I've kind of always had.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The contract that you got from XFC, it was from your friend Abi Mestre after he unfortunately passed away. You both tried out for that XFC contract together, how close were you to getting the contract? Did you make the final cut initially?

Nick Newell: Well, I made it through and then they narrowed it down to a couple finalists and I made the group of finalists but at the end of the day, the one who they chose was Abi and honestly, he deserved it. He was an excellent fighter and it's really a shame that he never got an opportunity to showcase how good he actually is.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, it's a shame how that turned out. Did it weigh on you at all heading into this fight?

Nick Newell: Well, I had a fight before this after he died and it was very emotional because the last time before then that I'd fought, he had been in my corner. I visited all the same places as I did the last time and it was very emotional for me. This time, I love him and I miss him just as much and people were saying, "You have to win for Abi," and the fact of the matter is that I didn't have to go out there and do anything other than give it my all. I didn't have to win, like he wouldn't like me any less or be ashamed because I didn't win, you know? I was going to work hard and go out there and give everything I got and win or lose, I know he'd be proud of me. I gave everything I got and I won.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last questions are more of the technical variety. I'm interested in how you adapt your style with the fact that you are missing your left hand. Is it more difficult in the clinch or to get chokes, how do you adapt your style to what the instructors would typically be teaching?

Nick Newell: I just have to be able to get it deeper. I don't have the same reach-around for a grip so when I actually do get a grip on you, it's that much tighter but it is harder for me to get it because I have to reach further. I have to commit more and I think me committing when I fight, I take a lot of risks and it's been paying off for me because I'm 6-0 as a pro with six first round stoppages and going back to my amateur fights, I'm on an eight fight winning streak all in the first round.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like you're ready for this next level now, to go up there against some top prospects or veterans?

Nick Newell: Yes, definitely. I've never been scared of a fight and I've never turned one down. I've had fights against guys who were supposed to be tough. I look forward to the challenge and I'm gonna keep working harder. Everyone better watch out because I'm coming for that top spot. I really believe in myself. No one believes in themself more than I do and my undying self confidence and my work ethic are going to take me far in this sport.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One last question for you Nick, you seem like a very confident fighter, what are your goals? What does your endgame look like? How far do you want to take this?

Nick Newell: My one goal is to never settle. Okay, now I fight in the XFC, but I want to be the champion. Let's take it to the next level. I want to be a world champion. I want to be number one in the world but then if you're number one in the world, you can't peak, you've got to stay there. You want to win more matches than anyone's ever won. I understand that some people believe it's far-fetched but I really believe in myself and I'm really looking forward to the challenge. At some point along the way, I probably will get beat as will everyone else. I'm not running away from it though, I'm ready for it.

Nick would like to thank Overthrow Gear, Clinch Gear, FitCon, Fighting Arts Academy, Ultimate MMA in North Haven, Connecticut, Combat Sports Agency and his friend's charity Tap Cancer Out. You can follow him on twitter @NotoriousNewell you can check him out on Facebook.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

What do you think of Newell's uncanny ability to destroy everyone in his path thus far in his career despite his apparent disadvantage? How far do you think he can go?

Sound off!

Here's the video of his most recent fight just for kicks.

Fight of the Week - Hernandez vs Newell (via HDNetFights)


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