Nick Newell was an undefeated mixed martial artist with his star on the rise when he stepped into the cage at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. in August 2013. He was two fights removed from putting an opponent down with a well-placed knee to the head but was highly regarded as a submission specialist. On this night, however, under the lights in his World Series of Fighting debut, he had the opportunity to show a larger audience that he was more than his win-loss record. His tenacious, come-forward style proved too much for the otherwise talented Keon Caldwell, who tapped out of a guillotine choke in the first round.
“It was basically saying that I had made it,” Newell says of the win. “It was on NBC Sports, a huge network, against a very tough opponent, and I proved that I belonged with the best in the world. I showed that I was an elite mixed martial artist.”
Here’s the thing: Because of a condition he was born with, known as congenital amputation, Newell is essentially a one-armed fighter. Whether or not this puts him at a disadvantage is the topic of much discussion among pugs and pundits but is of absolutely no concern to Newell.
“People say ‘he can’t do this or that because of his hand,’ but everyone has disadvantages based on body type,” he says. “My main advantage is technique, heart and determination to win. I don’t look for reasons why I can’t. I just know that I can. When you step out there, there are no excuses. I would never say that I was at a disadvantage.”
How would you describe your approach to fighting?
I’m a real go-with-the-flow-type guy. I don’t really look at myself as having my back against the wall or that I have to work that much harder [because of my arm]. I accept things as they are. If I have to work harder to get where I want to be, I’m willing to do it. I will work harder than you.
How do supplements fit into your fight prep and training?
Top Secret’s products are fantastic. I’ve been with them for over a year. I’ve used other supplements in the past, but they didn’t really do anything for me, so I kinda gave up on them. But I use Top Secret every day. After a hard workout, I always use their 100% Whey Protein — it’s the best-tasting protein I’ve ever had. I use BCAAs for recovery every day. I beat my body up, so it’s good to have something to help me heal. When I feel a bit down before cardio activity, I’ll use Cardio Igniter, and it lifts me up and gives me a boost. I also use Pump Igniter before I lift. The results that I’ve gotten have been phenomenal.
Who helped you develop the unique training methods that you employ in the gym?
Between Luis Figueroa and my current trainer Matt Ramos, we’ve come up with a lot of ways for me to try to do things. They have come up with some wonderful exercises that have worked very well for me. I am very lucky to have worked with them both. When I was training with Lou, I definitely got a lot stronger. Now with Matt, I’m getting a lot stronger and I’m working on athletic explosiveness and flexibility — making myself more of an athlete.
What keeps you motivated to train hard?
I was 2-22 my freshman year of high school wrestling. I lost every match quickly. I got pinned a lot. So I worked harder that whole offseason and came back and started winning, which helped me learn and appreciate the value of hard work. I know what it’s like to be at the bottom, and I don’t want to go back there. <