Hours after XFC president John Prisco stripped Nick Newell of the organization's lightweight championship, saying he was afraid to face top contender Scott Holtzman, Newell told MMA Fighting that he was taken aback by the announcement because he had never agreed to any kind of title fight, and had previously exercised an opt-out clause in his contract to declare free agency.
Newell said that he when originally signed with XFC, he agreed to a five-fight deal, but was given the ability to leave after three fights or one year. After being offered a championship match, he chose to take a fourth fight with the promotion, which he won, but opted out before a fifth bout in order to find more experienced opposition elsewhere with the hope of impressing the UFC.
"My contract is up and I chose not to go back to XFC," he said. "It's not about Scott Holtzman, certainly not. It's more so about me wanting to go somewhere that will guide me where I want to go. I want to go to the UFC. There was an interview with Dana White. I'm sure many people remember, and he said, 'Well, has he beaten anyone that was in the UFC?' And the answer's no, because I haven't had the opportunity to fight someone that was in the UFC. At 27 years old, I want to get to the top as soon as I can. No more playing around. I want to fight the guys who will get me where I want to be."
Newell said that after he opted out of his deal, XFC made him another financial offer, but Newell's camp turned it down because the money was too low. He said at that point, XFC promised to match an offer that Newell's camp had obtained elsewhere but his management team turned it down.
Regardless, Prisco went on to announce the matchup with Holtzman, which was penciled in for a June 14 event. Newell said he was surprised at that, but allowed his management to handle the situation. It ultimately ended with Prisco's Friday announcement, but despite that, Newell took the high road, crediting the organization for the opportunity and platform they provided him.
"I don’t have anything bad to say about the XFC," Newell said. "As a person, [John] says he respects me. I owe a lot to XFC. I was a no-name when I first came up, but I moved on. I'm moving forward with my career. He’s going to say I’m scared or whatever because he has a fight to promote. I don’t blame him. I’m not really mad or angry as much as I am upset that he'd say something like that because if you asked him before my last fight if i was scared, or if I wasn't tough, he’d never say that. He's just saying that to make his own guys look better, and I don't blame him."
Newell pointed out that his last opponent, Reynolds, had over 20 fights on his record, while Holtzman has just four.
In preparation for his next opportunity, Newell has been putting in time at American Top Team (ATT) in Coconut Creek, Florida, training with the big names of the gym's vaunted roster. He's been there for about one month, and says that training with some of the best fighters in the world has assured him that he's made the right decision. At 27, time is ticking, and Newell is looking ahead towards the end game.
From the time he entered the sport, his goal was the UFC, and splitting from XFC was just another step in that direction. Newell says he expects to make an announcement about his future soon, and that he is prepared right now for the sport's biggest show.
"Hanging with these [ATT} guys is a good way to gauge where you're at," he said. "There's a lot of great fighters here. You can ask anyone from the team. You can call up [head instructor Ricardo] Liborio right now. He’ll tell you I’m ready."