The UFC is home to many of the top mixed martial artists in the world. The promotion is constantly looking to bring in new talent to its organization, and one of the fighters the UFC should be looking to sign is none other than Nick Newell. The man they call “Notorious” on Friday night submitted Sonny Luque in the main event of Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) 35 in Houston, Texas, and after the fight Newell called for the UFC to sign him to a contract.
Yes, it’s true that Newell only has one fully functional arm, his right arm. He was born with congenital amputation of his left arm — he has a stump on his left limb, and no left hand. The “gimmick” of being a one-handed badass has gotten Newell plenty of headlines in his near-decade-long experience in the sport. But the reason he still gets talked about nearly 10 years after making his MMA debut in 2009 isn’t because he only has one hand. It’s because he’s an excellent fighter, and one that deserves to be in the UFC.
Newell has an impressive 14-1 record as a pro MMA fighter, with 11 of those wins coming via stoppage. He first rose to prominence fighting for Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC), where he won that promotion’s lightweight title on AXS TV. That put him on the radar of the bigger MMA promotions, and Newell really started to gain attention when he signed with the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) in 2013. Fighting for WSOF on NBC Sports, Newell submitted Keon Caldwell and Sabah Fadai with back-to-back guillotine chokes in his first two outings to earn himself a shot against then-WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje.
Yes, it’s true that Newell was outclassed by Gaethje and the fight turned out to be a massive mismatch, with Newell losing the fight via second-round TKO. But Newell showed in the fight how tough he was by even surviving to the second round, and he showed how much heart he has by never giving up or quitting even though it was clear he was not in the same class as Gaethje. That’s still to this day the only loss of Newell’s pro career, and now that we’ve seen Gaethje fight in the UFC Octagon we know he’s clearly one of the best lightweights in the world, so losing to him is not a big deal, especially in hindsight.
Following the loss to Gaethje, Newell took nearly a year off and then returned to the WSOF decagon, where he picked up back-to-back decision wins over Joe Condon and Tom Marcellino. Newell then decided to retire from MMA, and since 2015 he has sat on the sidelines. But we all know how short-lived MMA retirements are, and so it wasn’t exactly surprising to see Newell make a triumphant return to MMA. Since WSOF turned into the Professional Fighters League, Newell returned with LFA, one of the UFC’s top breeding grounds for prospects, and following the win over Luque he called his own shot for the UFC to sign him.
At just 31 years of age, Newell is in his prime and currently on a three-fight win streak. Not only is he a great story and an inspiration for other disabled athletes around the world, but he’s also a tremendous fighter, and one the UFC should sign. The UFC would not be signing him just because of his story, but because he is a great fighter an the UFC is in the market of signing the best fighters in the world. I don’t think Newell would ever be a UFC champion, but I think he’s a lot better than some of the other fighters on the promotion’s lightweight roster. Newell wants to be in the UFC, the fans want him in the UFC, and hopefully now the UFC obliges and signs him to help make the deepest lightweight division in MMA even deeper. The UFC would be making a mistake if they didn’t.