Word Series of Fighting lightweight Nick Newell has been a professional mixed martial artist since 2009. Since beginning his career nearly four and a half years ago, he has won all ten of his bouts, finishing nine of them in the first round with only once ever having gone the distance. What makes his career accomplishments even more impressive is that he’s managed to do all of this with just one hand.
Newell was born with a condition known as congenital amputation; his left arm stops just past the elbow. Usually, this would put a fighter at a disadvantage because many techniques require two hands to execute. But for Newell, his condition has not obstructed him from achieving any of his goals, no matter how difficult they may seem.
Newell was only a young boy when he met one-armed professional baseball player Jim Abbott, but the encounter inspired him enough to get to where he is today.
In recent interviews with USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie, Newell and Abbott shared their stories about how they’ve inspired one another since they met many years ago.
“I can only imagine how many one-handed kids he’s met throughout the years,” Newell, 27, tells USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie. “I’ve met a ton myself, and I can’t remember every single one. But seeing him, that motivated me to know that I can be what I want.”
“Whenever I met kids like him, I didn’t always know if they even liked baseball, but I knew that it seemed like they had something they really liked,” says Abbott, 46, who spent the majority of his MLB career pitching for the California Angels. “This is his passion, and he basically just says, ‘Let me prove what I can do.’ I find that really inspiring.”
Now it appears the roles have reversed. It’s Abbott who’s a fan of Newell, not the other way around.
He’ll get no argument from Abbott. Although he isn’t much of a fight fan and “couldn’t tell you the first thing about (MMA),” Abbott says, “I am a fan of Nick’s, and I know he’s been having real success despite some doubters out there. I’m really proud of what he’s done.”
The same way Abbott served as a source of inspiration for Newell growing up, Newell now serves as an inspiration for an entire new generation of mixed martial arts fighters with disabilities; he just doesn’t know it yet.
Newell is currently scheduled to face off against Sabah Fadal on December 7.