Undefeated lightweight and congenital amputee Nick Newell is moving towards his goal of joining the UFC. It was announced Tuesday that the fighter has joined the ranks of the World Series of Fighting promotion with an exclusive multi-fight contract, this news coming in the weeks after an ugly split with his previous employers at Xtreme Fighting Championships, an organization where he was once a champion.

“At 27 years old, I want to get to the top as soon as I can,” the Massachusetts native told MMA Fighting. “I want to fight the guys who will get me where I want to be.”

Where he wants to be is in a friendly environment where he can test himself against the world’s best fighters to prove that he is one of the best. His thinking is that the UFC will have no choice but to snatch him up once he’s proven himself in that way. If he can carry a tested record, coupled with his natural marketability due to his charm and the inspirational story of overcoming his handicap, then we can begin to assume that a major promotion like the UFC might want to take a gamble on Newell.

So far, the UFC isn’t ready to bite. The main reason lies in preserving its integrity of only housing the world’s best or most exciting fighters. Up to this point, Newell has done well for himself, but he certainly hasn’t faced top-shelf competition. And that’s part of his whole beef with his current status: being able to fight for a promotion that can offer him the kind of competition that the UFC would respect enough to want to sign him. All this hinges on whether or not he can continue winning against said competition, and winning as impressively as he had done in the smaller promotions.

In a way, Newell should be respected for his boyish honesty in following his goal to get to the UFC. But there is a bit of a thorn’s prick when it comes to that sweet smelling rose of plan: Newell is earning his way up. He’s not a UFC-caliber fighter at the moment, and he needs promotions such as the XFC and WSOF to help him get to that point. The attitude of “what can others do for me?,” while not directly impolite, is a bit of a slap in the face to his current employers. He only plans on using them as a stepping stone to his desired goal, and that will certainly rub some people the wrong way.

Sure, Newell is a slight draw, but is he enough of one to continually sing a tune of “me, me, me”? It’s one thing for a fighter to make career moves, but when relationships become strained in the process, it leads onlookers to wonder if one of the sides isn’t playing fair. Newell’s split from the XFC wasn’t the prettiest. It wasn’t something that will hurt either side in the long run, but it might leave onlookers scratching their heads as to why it had to go down like that.

Their conflict came about because Newell refused to play ball with the XFC in regards to agreeing on his next opponent, which was understandably his right due to the state of his contract with the promotion (Newell had met the terms of his XFC contract and was a free agent). He didn’t feel the XFC could give him a suitable opponent with a respectable enough record to advance his career, so he refused the fight that was offered to him. For that reason, the XFC stripped him of his title and wished him the best in his future endeavors.

I won’t try to paint Newell in any certain light based on that choice, but the XFC went into damage control over the fact that its reputation was going to take a hit based on Newell saying the XFC couldn’t offer him a adequate fight. Newell had just headlined the XFC 21 card on AXS TV. It was a title fight with its own share of touching moments served by the newly crowned champion, Newell, being introduced to a young fan—an amputee himself—for a photo opportunity in the cage. Here they had a new and inspiring champion, but as soon as he got the belt, he decided it was time to move on.

You can imagine the XFC was a bit sore about Newell feeling he had outgrown the promotion. In fairness, Newell had fulfilled his end of the contract he signed with the promotion, but that doesn’t make the XFC the bad guys for hoping to get at least one more headline with a title defense out of its newly crowned lightweight champion. It’s a similar scenario as seen at the highest level of the sport when Jon Jones refused a fight against Chael Sonnen as a late replacement opponent for UFC 151 and the entire event was canceled with the loss of its main event. Eventually Jones wound up fighting Sonnen anyway. Even if the UFC light heavyweight champ never wanted to take the fight in the first place, he learned that sometimes it’s better to play ball rather than wind up being the bad guy at the end of the day.

So if Newell thinks he can pick and choose who he wants to fight when one of the world’s most highly regarded fighters couldn’t make that decision for himself without major consequences, don’t you think Newell better learn to rein in his ambition? It’s something he’ll need to be careful of when dealing with the WSOF, because it might not work out as well as it did for him in the XFC.

Nonetheless, it can reasonably be seen as a natural career evolution for Newell to have a new home in the WSOF. It’s a promotion that has recently acquired many of the UFC’s bigger name castoffs, including Jon Fitch, Tyson Griffin and Jacob Volkmann. So if better competition—and UFC veterans—is what he wanted, then joining with the WSOF is a logical step forward. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Newell has looked great in his undefeated run in MMA, but this has been against low-level competition. His most recent win over Eric Reynolds at XFC 21 saw him facing his best competition to date. Reynolds is a 22-fight veteran that has lost to the likes of Jorge Masvidal and Eddie Alvarez in Bellator’s rounded cage. Reynolds may not hold any wins over notable competition, but he is a veteran with regards to cage time. Newell was able to dispatch Reynolds with relative ease and looked exciting in the process, slamming Reynolds with a suplex and holding on tight to secure a rear-naked choke. Newell deserves credit for that, but how much of a better opponent does that warrant him for his next fight?

If Newell is ready to step up to the next level of competition, then the WSOF can provide those opportunities. He could have the winner or loser from a few of the various lightweight matches—Jacob Volkmann vs. Lyle Beerbohm, Brian Cobb vs. Justin Gaethje, John Gunderson vs. Dan Lauzon—from the upcoming June 14 WSOF 3 card. There’s also Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, Tyson Griffin or one of the various Gracie family members within the promotion as possible opponents if Newell and the WSOF believe he is ready to take them on.

We know that Newell is dead set on being accepted by the UFC, but it’s still too early to tell if he’s actually prepared to fight in the Octagon. He’d have to continue winning against the substantially better competition that the WSOF can offer.

Newell has done well to advance his career and now the ball is in his court to keep his winning streak alive.

Photo: Nick Newell (Brian Siskind/XFC)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.

  • Chris

    Signing with the WSOF is the perfect move for Nick. They have a ton of talented fighters for him to fight and a great TV deal