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As far as gut feelings go, Emanuel Newton is the most interesting man in the game

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

One of the joys of speaking to Emanuel Newton is that pretty soon you feel like Carl Sagan in a sweat lodge. All you’ve got to do is ask a fairly straightforward question and then get the hell out of the way.

In this case, the question was: Why did it take so long for people to notice you?

"I understand things on a different level," Bellator’s light heavyweight champion says. "What I believe -- and what I see and know, as it is proven -- there’s a grid that travels across the earth. That’s how we have cell phone connections. How can I speak to you on Skype all the way on the other side of the world? It’s the grid that runs across the earth.

"The same thing happens when you connect with people. So the more Instagram followers you have, the more Twitter followers you have, the more people you’re connected to. So I believe that it is the universe that made me slow to grow, that made me slow to be noticed. Because I wasn’t ready for it yet. I wasn’t prepared for it yet, because they probably would have just tore me down and beat me up and left me broken. So now I’m prepared, so now I’m ready as it comes as it should. As it’s supposed to. It is what it is, you know?"

That kind of answer can be called a lot of things, but cliché isn’t one of them. Newton, who will attempt to defend his 205-pound title against Liam McGeary on Friday night at Bellator 134: The British Invasion, is a man who investigates his own inner-workings. If he feels he’s in collusion with the very directors of the universe, he’ll damn well tell you so. It makes for interviews that careen off into the cosmos without so much as a second thought.

In other words: Fantastic.

The 31-year old fights a little like he talks, too. It’s a lot of confounding spinny stuff, backfists from divination. He’s proven that he’s somewhat of a master at adapting to his opponent in the cage, as he did with Joey Beltran in September. In that one, he spun a couple of times before something dawned on him. He needed to become a counter striker in this instance, and so he "baited" Beltran into his orbit one last time. Then Newton, gauging his aggression, dropped Beltran with a spinning backfist.

"I was really having a lot of head chatter that night," he says. "I had a lot of things going through my mind." Later on he says, "I always need to tap into an energy that helps me to adapt to my opponents."

This all started for the broader public when he tapped into some raw energy against Muhammed Lawal during the Season 8 light heavyweight tournament. Same thing – a spinning backfist that put Lawal on the dream flow.

"The crazy thing is now from what I’m starting to see of myself in training versus what I see in myself in fighting, I think the majority of it’s instinct," he says. "Granted, I know how to throw all these things and I practice them, but sometimes I’m in the gym and I’ll be like, man, I throw so much more in a fight…so much weird sh*t in a fight. But I just think at that time my mind goes into a different mode. It’s like, it’s fight time, let’s pull all the tricks out of the basket. And I adapt to my opponents. I adapt to what they do, and I always find a chink in the armor."

Against McGeary he’ll be fighting a 6-foot-6 Briton who has finished all nine of his profession fights. Imposing? Not when you’re Newton, who sees advantages in being shorter and stockier.

"I prefer to fight taller guys," he says. "I prefer to fight the bigger guys, because they’re usually not stronger than me and usually they don’t move as well as I do. So, bigger guys are better for me, taller guys are better, and I can get a hold of Liam and have a lot more real estate to work with."

In Newton’s last fight, at Bellator 130, Newton choked out Linton Vassell, who stands 6-foot-4 and carries an 82-inch wingspan.

"When I can learn his range, and where to stay away from the end of his power, then it’ll be easier for me to spin away and get on the inside," Newton says. "And then once on the inside, he’s not going to have as much, because his arms are so long. It’s going to be harder for him to hit me, harder for him to pummel with me. If anything, I think fighting a longer guy has its perks to it, too, especially with my style."

The year 2009 was a pocket of turbulent energy for Newton, who lost all three fights he participated in that year. Since that time, though, he’s gone 13-1, with seven wins in a row in Bellator.

What happened…and what changed?

"Just living in the flesh, man," he says. "Living in fear and worry, and getting sick and overtraining, and doing what this person wants me to do, and that person wants me to do, instead of paying attention to my inner-voice, paying attention to myself. And then my daughter was in my mindset. When she was born I think I was given a new energy and a spark. And ever since she’s been with us, since she’s been talking and walking, I haven’t lost. So I believe she’s been a catalyst to catapult me to where I am now."

Get a good look at Newton as he fights at the Mohegan Sun Friday night. It’s some unorthodox stuff he does, but here’s another thing -- "The Hardcore Kid" says he’ll retire at 33 years old "to do other stuff." Thirty-three was the age that Christ and John Belushi died, but for Newton it’ll be the next chapter in his career.

Already he’s appearing in movies. He has a speaking roll in a film called The Green Ghost, where he and UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez play "martial arts masters." His training partner and noteworthy Hollywood stuntman Arnold Chon set that up. And Newton likes to just let things happen in the way they are going to happen, whether it is movies or some other avenue.

He doesn’t like to make too many plans.

"Plans always fail, man, promises are always broken," he says. "I just go with the flow and follow my light and stay patient and things come to me as it’s supposed to."

So there’s no sense predicting how his fight with McGeary is going to down, right? Wrong again, bubba. It’s Newton himself that’s forever unpredictable.

"Either a knockout or a submission or a TKO," he says. "I don’t say which round it’s going to be or how long it’s going to be, I just say I’m going to finish him."