Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Notorious" Nick Newell

From the surface it appears Nick Newell lives his life single-handedly. His young mother raised him single-handedly, as she and Nick's father separated early in Nick's life. Nick Newell was born with a single hand due to congenital amputation. But upon closer inspection Nick Newell actually has a village surrounding him, lifting him up, supporting him, and watching him conquer the world like any two-handed person can do, only better in his case. This is Nick Newell’s story.

Never having two hands, Nick Newell’s life is no more difficult than most. And, after the initial questions surrounding his one handedness, I forgot that had anything to do with who Nick Newell is. Born in Milford, Connecticut to “young parents”, Nick Newell arrived with one hand. For some families this would have been devastating, but to Nick’s mother, it was what it was. She always encouraged Nick to pursue his dreams and, when he became hesitant to try something new, she would tell him to “Man up”. Nick Newell admits, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mom.” In fact, it was Nick’s mother who wanted him to try out for wrestling. Unsure at first, this athlete, comfortable playing everything from soccer to basketball and most sports in between, gave it a shot. In Nick Newell’s world, “Wrestling is hard and fun. I was a WWE fan growing up, but it was wrestling at the high school and college level that was great. I believe every kid should do wrestling, it is the best foundation!” Nick Newell was All-State in high school with several other accolades to his credit. In college, while rooming with a guy who eventually went on to a career in the WWE, Nick’s television was constantly on Spike for the WWE coverage. Directly before that program began, The Ultimate Fighter came on and Nick became interested in MMA. “It was the coolest thing I ever saw in my life!” Nick said exuberantly. Within a month Nick Newell was training, commencing his career in MMA.

Fights came, but sporadically. Many fighters backed out by weigh-in or on the day of the fight. They were afraid of what fighting would do to their career; if they won they beat a one-handed man and if they lost they lost to a one-handed man. Eventually, though, true competitors stepped into the cage with Nick Newell. Self-described as “humble, not cocky or arrogant”, Nick Newell admits, “My heart is in fighting, my dreams. I am fully dedicated to this.” And, although he stands with a current record of 5-0, Nick Newell realizes he could always get his “ass kicked”, but responds, “That’s my right. And if somebody has a problem with me fighting, no one makes them watch.” Nick continues, “I train harder than most. You’ve got to know everything to be good. If your goals are not to be the best, then you are in the wrong sport.”

Still a kid at heart who lives at home and loves his family, Nick Newell doesn’t take life too seriously. He likes to “goof off” and explains, “Fighting is fun. Before a match I stay relaxed, warm up, get loose, stretch, go over techniques, and joke around and have fun with my friends. My friends are all cool guys. I’ve had many of my friends since Kindergarten.” One friend he met in college, Abi Mestre, however, lost his life in a motorcycle accident earlier this year. Mestre was “like a brother to me.” Nick will never forget about him and relayed that Mestre was someone, “everyone loved. He was a fantastic person and a fighter. He was a great person. It makes me sad and I miss him a lot.”

Regarding fighting Nick also indicated that he is, “…not scared of anyone. I practice all sorts of situations so I’m ready when I enter the cage.” Nick feels trash talking his opponents is unnecessary and he generally likes his competitors for the most part. He simply stated, “Like you or not I’m still going to beat you up!” Nick sums up his fight style and his current win streak by philosophizing, “Nobody is unstoppable. I have a lot of heart; I go for the finish.”

Nick Newell is a nice guy who helps other people. He recently returned from a visit to Walter Reed Hospital to talk to amputees as well as a trip to Nebraska where he talked at length with David Stefan who has a disability and is also interested in a career in MMA. But mostly Nick spends his time with his friends, his girlfriend, his mom, and at work. He works five days a week, trains 6 days, and on his days off, travels to Springfield, Massachusetts from his home in Connecticut to train intensely with his coach. Nick says the misconceptions he finds many have about MMA is that they are unaware of the many techniques and body mechanics employed. Nick shared, “It is the hardest sport. There are so many different styles, so much to know. It is a scientific sport and deserves respect.” He feels the sport will continue to grow. As for his own career, Nick Newell simply wants to get some fights close to home as he usually travels around New England for his matches. Ultimately he’s looking at a title shot for Cage Titans and is not picky about his opponents; he’ll fight anyone. The end goal is to fight in UFC. He would certainly jump at a chance to appear in The Ultimate Fighter, as “it is the gateway to the UFC.”

Loyal, dedicated, and savvy, Nick Newell was sure to include shout outs to all who support and help him. He started by thanking “my friends and family because without their support I wouldn’t be doing this.” Next he mentioned Fighting Arts Academy, his main team, and specifically Jeremy Libiszewski and his whole family, for “taking me in”. “They give me my game plans; Jeremy is the boss. I have the best coaches around.” Next Nick spoke about Crossfit Concept in Orange, Connecticut run by Louis Figueroa who works with Nick on strength and conditioning. Nick also listed Ultimate MMA in North Haven, Connecticut, C3 Athletics in Stanford, Connecticut located near his work, Wnec Wrestling, and Jonathan Law Wrestling where Nick got his start. Finally Nick added Fight It Out Clothing and Tap Out Cancer, a charity he affiliates himself.

Nick Newell enters one’s mind as a novelty, the one-handed cage fighter in MMA. But that quickly fades within moments of talking to him or watching him fight. Nick is passionate, focused, capable, nearly unstoppable, and will not be denied anything in life. He is not disabled; he is, in fact, more “abled” than most. There is nothing Nick Newell does single-handedly except win.

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