When “Notorious” Nick Newell (10-0) steps into the cage in Vancouver, British Columbia, for World Series of Fighting 7 against Sabah Fadei (7-2), he won’t be fighting just his opponent.
For Newell, he will be fighting the inherent pressure that comes with an undefeated record. He will be fighting the anxiety of knowing a lightweight world title shot with World Series of Fighting is just a few fights away with a win. And he will be fighting the fact that all the pressure is on him this time. WSOF 7 will be broadcast Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and streamed on Live Extra.
“He’s hungry and he’s looking to make a name for himself so he’s very dangerous,” Newell said of Fadei.
“He has a lot of knockout power and he’s fought all over the world. He’s fought on TV before, so he won’t be nervous. He has never been submitted and technically he’s very good. The fact of the matter is no one really knows who he is. But I know who he is. I’m well aware.”
After 10 professional fights, Newell has only been to a decision once in his career. The rest of his wins all came in the first round, either by KO or submission.
“My last fight against Keon Caldwell went well,” Newell said. “I wanted to keep pressure on him and wear him out because he’s very explosive. So our game plan was to put weight on him and take that explosiveness away from him, but I saw an opening for the guillotine so I took it.”
That choke came at 1:52 of the first round, his ninth first-round stoppage.
To say Newell is on a tear would be an understatement. And though Nick will be facing tougher competition in the WSOF than he’s faced ever before, the story will always revolve the fact that he was born with congenital amputation -- and only has one full arm.
“Initially, it was a shock,” says Stacey Newell, a single mother who had Nick when she was 22 years old. “But within 24 hours I was able to deal with it. He was perfect to me in every way, but as a young, single parent I thought if I just told him to say, ‘I was born this way,’ and he learned to like himself, then everything would be fine.”
It’s turned out better than fine for her son. After winning the XFC lightweight championship, Newell sought tougher competition and settled on the WSOF to satisfy the itch to prove he can hang with the top guys in his weight class.
“Everyone’s tough,” Newell said. “There’s no easy fights from here on out. I’m going to fight whomever I have to fight to get to the championship. I want the belt, and I know I’m going to get it.”
Newell attributes that confidence to the way his mother brought him up to believe he could do anything he sets his mind to.
“MMA is one person up there fighting but it’s a team sport,” Newell said. “I work extremely hard, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m also lucky to have people in my life who care a lot about me. My coach lets me stay in his house when I’m in camp, my mom takes care of the little things so I only have to worry about fighting.”
“I never doubted he could do anything,” Stacey said. “But I also knew he would do it his way. He would have to work harder than everybody else to do the things that he wanted to do, and along the way he’s become a champion. I’m very proud of the message, but as a mom, I don’t think any mom says, ‘Ooh, I can’t wait to see my son step into the cage and fight.’”
Nick’s mother is a nurse, so she understands the danger professional fighting poses on its athletes better than most. And while she worries about head injuries, she understands it is part of the game.
“I just think, ‘Please don’t let him get hurt,’” she said. “My favorite part of the fight is when they raise his hand at the end. Then I can see that smile of his.”
This article was written by Mike Straka and appeared in the World Series of Fighting 7 digital program.