Earlier this week we had the distinct privilege of speaking with Nick Newell (10-0) from WSOF. He’s an unassuming figure in MMA that will be fighting for the lightweight title at WSOF this Saturday (7-5-2014) against Justin Goethe (11-0) who’s shown an amazing ability to finish each most of his fights with a KO or TKO. Although Newell’s attracted quite a bit of attention due to his distinct physical differences from his opponents, he is by no means a man without talent or ability. In fact, one could easily make the argument he is one of the most dangerous opponents any fighter might face in the cage.
Much discussion in the world of MMA has circulated on his physical differences. (Things that are obvious and need not be belabored here.) However no matter what abilities his body may possess it’s the mind of this fighter that makes him so effective.
In our interview I looked for signs of a source of inspiration. What drives Newell to be so successful and provide such an exceptional performance in the cage. We thought there might be an extremely deep routed philosophy. Something complex, emotionally driven and perhaps even fragile. However there was no sign of that to be found. Instead Newell represented the epitome of a true fighter. A man on a mission. A soldier with only one thing on his mind. Winning. Winning the battle by what ever means necessary.
But was it something he had to prove? Not at all. He was calm, humble and direct with his answers. Frustrations aside of how certain media may have chosen to focus on other aspects of his life, the elements that appear to make Newell the amazing fighter that he is appear to be born from the same sources as many other great fighters. Focus! He doesn’t appear to distract himself with trivialities that might otherwise impede a fighters ability in the cage. Instead he is an efficient machine. One with a goal to win and an extremely talented fighter that no one should underestimate!
SciFighting: Now that you’re getting a shot at the lightweight title, do you feel you are finally getting the recognition you deserve? Has it taken longer than you expected?
Newell: No, it’s fine. I don’t rush anything. I just live and learn and enjoy the journey. I like attention, I like more media, I like that stuff cause it’s better for my career but if it doesn’t come I don’t get upset about it. I’d this if no one was watching.
SciFighting: What got you started in MMA? Did you start with grappling or striking? What attracted you to it?
Newell: I started wrestling in HighSchool when I was a freshman. Because I used to watch Pro Wrestling with my friend and he was like, “I’m gonna join the wrestling team, I know this guy that wrestles, I think I’m gonna wrestle.” I was like “Oh Cool! I’ll do it too.” I kinda said I was gonna do it but I didn’t really follow through or do anything for it but then one day the captain of the team came into our class and said “Hey is there anyone in this class trying out for wrestling?” and I said “I am!” and I just went so it was kinda a quick decision.
SciFighting: Speaking of Pro Wrestling, did you have a favorite [growing up]?
Newell: Bret “The hitman” Hart. He gave me his glasses one time at a show.
SciFighting: Although there’s a lot of crossover between fans of MMA and Pro Wrestling fans there’s still a lot of division between the fans on which is better. One being considered more real vs. the other. What are your thoughts?
Newell: People seem to spend too much time comparing them instead of realizing that they’re completely different. Should you not like movies because they’re only fake killing each other?
SciFighting: Right, both are entertainment even if one more scripted than the other. Moving back to MMA, as far as starting out in wrestling and when you transitioned into striking, it certainly seems from your record that you lean on you talents in grappling. Are you happy with your current strategy or are you trying to work more on your striking to get more KO finishes?
Newell: I don’t care as long as I win! (laughing) People seem to spend a lot of time saying “oh i’m gonna show these guys, I’m gonna knock him out”. I always try to win as easily as possibly and I go up against a lot of strikers and I take then out of their element. I also went up agains one grappler and I knocked him out.
SciFighting: So you just adapt to who ever you go up against in the cage?
Newell: I just come up with the smartest strategy possible to defeat the person based on my skill set and their skill set and I execute.
SciFighting: Is that something you come up with on the fly or do you spend a lot of time studying fights beforehand?
Newell: Nah, my coach does it for me. He’s really good with strategy and analyzing the best approach.
SciFighting: In interview you gave to another publication last fall you commented on your thoughts of WSOF and Ray Sefo and how well they had been treating you. Now that the ties between WSOF and NBC Sports are strengthening do you feel like more opportunities are opening up or are things pretty much the same as they’ve always been?
Newell: It’s important and probably helps people realize that WSOF has legit fighters, some of the best fighters in the world, we’re not here to play around. A great product gets more viewers and I’m happy to contribute. Just keep watching.
SciFighting: Do you ever think about where WSOF sits with respect to competing promotions like Bellator and UFC? Do you ever wonder about who’s gonna be the bigger fish in the pond one day?
Newell: UFC is number one [in size], they’ve been around the longest. But, I don’t really look at it as a competition. I think the more MMA, the bigger MMA shows that there are it’s better for the fans and for the fighters.
SciFighting: As far as how you started with wrestling in high school, actually taking this one step back. I don’t wanna lean on the obvious facts of your physical differences with other fighters. Is this something you would recommend to someone to someone who’s in a similar situation to yourself, maybe they want to test themselves or boost their confident. Perhaps more for the emotional aspects rather than just the physical challenges.
Newell: I would recommended it. I would recommended it for kids who are missing more limbs than me and even for people who are missing no limbs. It’s good to know how to defend yourself. Always. You don’t have to fight. You don’t have to go into the cage but you should know how to defend yourself. With wrestling, I was very insecure when I first got to high school but wrestling gave me the confidence to come out of my shell and be myself.
SciFighting: Looking forward, you say you just wanna win, but is that all that drives you or do you ever even worry about losing?
Newell: I am totally focused on winning. I plan on winning and never quitting. I’m going out there to give it all I got, lay it all out on the line, try my hardest to win. I guess I could get knocked out but what ever happens happens. I train hard for this and I’m ready for what ever happens.
SciFighting: What’s your confidence level for your next fight? You think this is gonna be an easy fight or a big challenge for you?
Newell: Hell no, this is not gonna be an easy fight. Usually when I go out there, boom boom boom boom boom it’s done and I dominate. But with him, he’s done the same thing I’ve done. He’s 11-0 and he’s done the same things I’ve done. I suspect there’s gonna be moments where he’s winning or he may have the upper hand but I know I’m gonna win. I know that I have what it takes to win and I know I’m gonna get my win by the end of the fight.
SciFighting: Assuming you do get the win. Do you have any big plans? Or even if you lose? Either way, are you gonna be the same?
Newell: I don’t think that far in the future. What ever happens happens. I plan on becoming champion. But first I gotta win, I’ve done it multiple times but I’m focused on that before I can think about anything else.
SciFighting: Do you have any other MMA fighters who you look up to or take inspiration from?
Newell: There’s a couple of other one hits that were around before I was. Tim Abbot was one and other is a kick boxer “Master Humbee” that I looked up to growing up.
SciFighting: Is fighting your only focus or are you also participating in any social
Newell: I work with a charity that’s called the Luckyfin Project.
SciFighting: What do they focus on?
Newell: Upper limb differences.
SciFighting: Do you think if you get the win in this next fight that the conversation on your limb differences will die down in the media?
Newell: I don’t think so. People are probably always gonna talk about it.
SciFighting: Do you ever think about how different your life could have been if you didn’t have these physical differences?
Newell: No, people make a bigger deal out of it than I ever have. If I had two hands I’d be just as competitive. It doesn’t really ruin my life. I can still drive a car, still tie my shoes. It’s not like I have such a bad life.
SciFighting: Moving onto a slightly different topic. What are your thoughts on Bellator’s change of management and their plan to phase out the tournament style matches?
Newell: I honestly thought the tournaments were kinda cool. But if I was running Bellator I would do one tournament a year in every weight class and you fight every two months and it would be for up an coming fighters and then you get a title shot.
SciFighting: Thanks so much for your time Nick and best of luck to you on the fight!
Newell: Definitely and also if you wanna know more about the charity we talked about earlier you can go to Luckyfinproject.org you can learn more about it.
SciFighting: Thanks Nick we’ll be sure to look into it and best of luck to you, not that you should need it!
Newell: Thank you!
After the interview we were curious about the name Luckyfin and it turns out the project was based on the premise in the film Finding Nemo where the clown fish Nemo had one smaller but “lucky” fin. If you’re at all interested in learning more about Lucky Fin Project then please do go to www.luckyfinproject.org and check it out.
Nick is an impressive MMA fighter and his focus and determination is inspiring. We do wish him the best of luck in this next fight and are confident regardless the outcome he will continue to entertain MMA fans for years to come!