Justin Gaethje, who? Nick Newell made a life 'out of pissing in the punch bowl'

World Series of Fighting

Nick Newell always knew this opportunity would come. It was just the waiting game that tested his resolve the most. 28 years spent grinding, slowly forcing it into existence, quelling at least a small percentage of the whispers that doubted him, and even now, after 11 successful trips into the cage, still continue to do so.

Born with his left arm cut off at the elbow because a congenital amputation, Newell is an undefeated fighter on the brink of stardom. As he readies to challenge WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje at WSOF 11, on a show rumored to air on NBC, Newell appeared on this week's edition of The MMA Hour, where he tried to put into words just what the culmination of a lifelong dream feels like.

"Happy. Excited. Motivated. Ready to go basically go out there and show my skills and show everything I've been working so hard on," Newell said. "This is what I've been working for, so to get the opportunity finally is fantastic, and I can't wait to make the most of it."

The opportunity to eventually challenge himself against a world respected fighter like Gaethje is precisely why Newell inked a multi-fight deal with then-upstart promotion WSOF a little over a year ago.

His ultimate goal is of course the UFC -- it always has been -- but Newell's road was always destined to be harder than that of any other 11-0 prospect, simply because of the perception that surrounds his disability. He's the one-handed fighter, to put it bluntly. And for however skilled that man with one hand may be, it's hard to convince billion dollar entities to risk broadcasting the beating of "handicapped" person on national television, even if that perception is both ignorant and unjust.

"I don't think I have a choice, I think I have to be okay with it," Newell said. "It's not something I really can control. I can't send these guys messages and be like, stop saying I'm the one-armed fighter!

"It's a part of who I am, it's not what defines me. I have one hand and I fight, but I'm not the one-handed fighter. I'm just a fighter who happens to have one hand. It's going to draw more eyeballs than most people because I'm different. It makes me stick out, it makes me a little more interesting, but at the end of the day I still have to win fights."

And win fights he has. Whether it's his inescapable guillotine, or an old-fashioned knee to the jaw, the 28-year-old has converted more than a few non-believers to the Church of Newell during his six unvanquished years in the sport.

Inevitably though, for those who still consider themselves skeptics, every new fight announcement is simply the one that will signal the end to Newell's magical run. It's a criticism that Newell has grown accustomed to, and his July dance with Gaethje is no exception.

"I get that a lot, pretty much every time I fight. But this one more than others," Newell admitted. "Just based on how devastating Gaethje's been, and the audience that he's been doing it in front of, a lot of people are going to doubt me going into this fight. But I made my whole life out of pissing in the punch bowl. It wouldn't be the first time I've surprised people.

"I believe that I'm one of the best 155-pounders in the world, and I'm ready to take out anyone. You never know how far you're going to go unless you give it a try, and I'm giving it everything I got when I go out there."

For what it's worth, Newell isn't trying to fool himself. He knows full well the unhinged force of nature he's up against.

Gaethje, like Newell, stands a perfect 11-0 in his mixed martial arts career, with 10 of those contests ending without judge interference. Gaethje's performances within WSOF have been something to behold, a torrent of violence and raw aggression which Newell admits has been "fantastic" to watch.

But really, Newell wouldn't have it any other way.

"[Gaethje] is very explosive and entertaining and finishes fights against good competition, and that's the type of guy that I want to fight," Newell said. "We're both 11-0, both with 10 finishes. I'm more submissions, he's more knockouts. But he has submissions and I have knockouts, so I think it's a good fight, a good match-up.

"I felt like it was only a matter of time before I got a title shot. I got it now so I'm extremely excited and ready to make the most of the opportunity and take the belt."

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