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Emanuel Newton on Fighting Style: “I love being unorthodox. It just means I’m different.”

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Emanuel-Newton
(Emanuel Newton celebrates his first light heavyweight title defense, photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)

Scfighting has had the pleasure of interviewing Bellator light heavyweight champion Emanuel Netwon several times in his career in the promotion. At Bellator 134: British Invasion, “The Hardcore Kid” takes on British light heavyweight Liam McGeary in his third title defense. We check in with Emanuel to ask how he’s preparing for his next fight and what recent changes he’s made in his fight game.

Scifighting: How did you celebrate your last win over Linton Vassell in Bellator 130? That must have been one of the most challenging fights of your career.

Newton: Like I tell everybody else man, I think differently. I don’t believe in challenges, I believe in growing. Every time I learn more about myself–more about my mind and how it works. I learn how I mentally become tougher and how I become more connected to my inner being which gives me victory. It was definitely back and forth grappling wise but I knew that victory would be given to me because that’s all I request of myself. That’s what will be given.

SF: When you’re mentally preparing for a fight, do you like to watch any classic fights for inspiration? What inspires you to fight?

Newton: No I’m just inspired by my team and by my God. I don’t need to look at things or study this or study that. I just train and go in there and win because that’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s what I’m meant to do and that’s what I’m made to do.

(Emanuel Newton celebrates a victory over Mihail Zayats, photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)
(Emanuel Newton celebrates a victory over Mihail Zayats, photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)

SF: You have a reputation as an “unorthodox” or “unconventional” fighter. What do you think people mean when they give you that label?

Newton: I think orthodox style is more of the traditional Muay Thai, regular old jiu-jitsu and wrestling. I think unorthodox means guys add more martial arts with a lot more stances and a lot more movements–it’s not stuff you usually see. I’m here for an MMA fight where anything kind of goes, where I can put more things out there and throw them together. But you know, I love being unorthodox. It just means I’m different.

SF: When you were first beginning to train and develop your unique style, were trainers or coaches adamantly against your style or your techniques?

Newton: No, not really because my style works. You can’t doubt something that works. I never had any trainers do that, if anything they say “Wow, how did you throw that?” they learn things from me you know? I learn things from them too. It’s like a giving tree, we’re always giving to each other, it’s not just about me. I’ve been blessed with a lot of my striking coaches. They’ve come from Taekwondo, Jeet Kune Do–I’ve been blessed to have trainers who were very open minded and helped me grow.

(Photo via Bellator.com)
(Photo via Bellator.com)

SF: What styles would you say are emerging as a new popular trend in MMA?

Newton: I’ve seen a lot more Taekwondo spinning back kicks. A lot of styles of martial arts throw it but it is mainly a Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do kick. Guys are finding more ways of incorporating their grappling into their wrestling or jiujitsu base where they come from. You see a lot more tricky stuff and I think you see a lot at Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet. They’ve really been the catalyst for a new style of grappling. The sport is evolving and it’s good to see because something that’s not evolving ends up dying out and MMA’s not going anywhere.

SF: In the intensity of a fight, how do you get a sense of the right opportunity for your signature spinning back fists and kicks? Is that something that you can ever necessarily teach to someone or is that intuition only acquired through fighting experience?

Newton: It’s a combination of both. All three: experience, timing and technique. Everybody’s different, I’m not going to try to say do it this way or that way. I’ll teach a spinning back kick and when we get into sparring they’ll throw it with different steps but I’m not going to tell someone “that’s wrong.” We all have our own fingerprints, we’re all meant to do things differently. When you try to do something just like somebody else, you’re following them, you aren’t following yourself. I believe that some people are truly gifted enough to be able to have the timing and the foot movement to be able to get those spinning strikes.

(Photo via Bellator.com)
(Photo via Bellator.com)

SF: Liam McGeary is a tall and strong fighter for light heavyweight. What is your strategy and game plan going up against such a sizable opponent?

Newton: I prefer to fight taller fighters, it’s easier to for me to incorporate my game. I can be in and out more, I just have to be a little more out of range for throwing punches. But once I get inside it’s easier because it’s harder for them to hit me. They have to turn their body in because they have such long arms and legs. Liam is different and awkward but I have no problem fighting bigger fighters. Linton was a bigger, stronger and more explosive fighter, so I think he was the perfect fighter to go against before Liam.

I look at omens as showing my victories ahead of time. I look at it like this, the last guy I fought was Linton and the next guy I’m fighting is Liam–kind of similar right? Linton was on a 9-fight winning streak, Liam is 9-0 and they’re both British. That’s the universe telling me victory has already been given, just go and get it.

SF: How do you dial into recognizing those kinds of patterns in the middle of a fight?

Newton: Putting a jab on him, putting a kick on him, taking a little bit of energy from him and seeing where he’s at. You have to be open to these things and these ways of thinking. You have to learn things and go through things to understand them just like anything else in life. As soon as I touch Liam I’ll be able to figure out where he’s gonna be and be able to figure out what I need to do. I’ll be able to stay out of his range, be able to get into my range and look for the finish.

(Photo via Bellator.com)
(Photo via Bellator.com)

SF: What is your favorite means of active recovery in training?

Newton: It really just depends on what my mind tells me at the time. Sometimes I go to to the mountains, sometimes I’ll just go meditate in my shower. I do a lot of meditation in active recovery. I’ll go on a run or I’ll go for a swim and just be in nature.

SF: Do you sometimes have to tell your training partners to slow down in training for active recovery?

Newton: I do have to tell some of my training partners not to overtrain but sometimes its to each his own because they need to do what’s best for themselves. Eventually they’ll learn through rial and error. Eventually everyone finds where they need to be through each other.

See Emanuel Newton in action at Bellator 134 live on Spike TV on February 27th at 9/8C.

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Kurt Tellez
Kurt Tellez is a Southern California-based writer and musician. He first developed a passion for writing and literature in high school that carried through to the completion of a B.A. in English from Cal State Fullerton in 2013. Inspired by Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson, Alan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson, he has pursued a career in writing through contributions to online magazine publications, blogging, and social media management. His musical studies began at thirteen, and has since played in garage bands, concert bands and jazz bands everywhere from Honolulu to The Matthew Street Beatles Festival in Liverpool. Kurt has followed MMA since becoming an avid listener of the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Inspired by Eddie Bravo's appearances on the show, he became a member of Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu in 2014.