After his latest win, Nick Newell put it in terms everyone could understand.
“I’m one of the best fighters in the world, and I belong in the UFC,” Newell said after his first-round submission win over Sonny Luque at LFA 35 on Friday night in Houston. “That’s it. That’s final. I gave you 14 reasons why I belong in the UFC. I’m one of the best fighters in the world, and I’ve proved it 14 times.”
It’s a pretty strong case, honestly. And if you disagree entirely based on how he was born, without regard for what he’s actually done, you might want to stop and consider what you’ve just admitted.
As recently as a couple years ago this felt like a settled argument. Newell (14-1) had built up a solid record for himself, beating everyone he’s faced, with the lone exception of current UFC lightweight standout Justin Gaehtje, and the UFC had given him some mild “atta-boys” from afar but expressed no real interest in signing him.
Then Newell retired at 29, citing injuries and diminishing returns, and we all stopped talking about whether a congenital amputee with one hand could really compete in the UFC.
Now he’s back and seemingly as good as ever, scoring his ninth submission win in 14 pro fights, reminding us once again that he’s not just a good fighter for a guy with one hand – he’s a flat-out good fighter in general.
How long can the UFC ignore someone like that?
There was a time when it seemed like the answer might be indefinitely. When Newell was on his unbeaten run through XFC and then WSOF, UFC President Dana White used to respond to questions about him with a mix of concern and world-weary doubt.
“It’s hard to fight here with two arms,” White said in 2012, before questioning whether Newell could even get licensed by the more stringent state athletic commissions. “Maybe he can get away with that in some of these other states. I don’t know. Fighting with one arm is just craziness to me.”
At this point, however, it’s hard to keep making the argument that Newell’s congenital amputation renders him incapable of competing safely at the UFC level. He’s won all his fights but one, and finished most of his opponents. He’s beaten guys who have beaten guys who have fought in the UFC. He may have lost to Gaethje, but so will most people walking this earth, no matter how many hands they have.
So why not at least give Newell a shot?
You get the sense that the UFC’s concern is the optics of it all. If you put a man with one hand into a cage, and he gets badly brutalized, it’s not a great look for a fight promoter. There’s also the possibility that people may think you’re just in it for the novelty value, using Newell as a cheap ploy for quick attention.
But as MMA slides into middle-age, these fears start to look like holdovers from a different era.
The UFC doesn’t have to defend itself constantly from the “human cockfighting” accusers anymore. It’s a part of the culture now, if anything maybe a little too unremarkable. And signing a fighter with one hand is no more a desperate attention grab than signing a pro wrestler with no fights and no experience.
How could anyone keep a straight face while claiming that CM Punk belongs in the UFC but Newell can’t hack it?
You also have to ask how the UFC justifies keeping Newell out. In the past, White has been pretty straightforward about it – it’s the lack of a hand. He just didn’t believe that a one-handed fighter could adequately defend himself.
But Newell does. He has. And if he keeps proving that he can do the job regardless, at a certain point the refusal to even give him a shot starts to look like plain old discrimination.
What’s it going to take? That’s really the only question that matters here. Newell has been proving how capable he is for years, and now he’s returned to the sport after some time off, seemingly with a new chip on his shoulder. If he keeps fighting and winning, how can you keep him out?
Just as importantly, how can you do it without straight-up admitting that the reason you won’t give him a chance is entirely due to the way he was born, with no regard for his ability?
If it really is optics that the UFC is concerned with, it might want to stop and consider how that would look.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Nick Newell deserves his UFC shot, but what will it take?