Nick Newell makes his return to mixed martial arts on Friday night after retirement of nearly 2 1/2 years.
The Connecticut-based lightweight meets Sonny Luque in the AXS-TV broadcast main event of LFA 35 in Houston. But while Newell appreciates the opportunity, he has no doubt about his longterm goal: Newell believes he belongs in the UFC.
“Obviously, I’d like to fight in the UFC,” said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I feel like I’ve earned it, but life’s not fair sometimes. I think maybe after this one, but who knows.”
While Newell gained headlines early in his career due to the fact he competes as a congenital amputee, he stayed in the limelight because, quite simply, he can fight. Newell racked up a 13-1 record before he stepped away, with his only loss to current hardcore darling Justin Gaethje.
And deep down, Newell believes he can hang in the UFC, if only he got the opportunity.
“When you’re good enough and you know it, and you know you can beat these guys who are fighting, it’s kind of difficult to sit just back and watch when you want to be out there,” Newell said. “So at the end of the day, that’s always the goal, it’s always been the goal, and I feel like now more than ever I’m ready, I’m ready to go out and make a name for myself, even moreso than I already have.”
Newell surprised the MMA world when he walked away in late 2015 on a two-fight win streak and with a 4-1 World Series of Fighting record. But he fully believes he made the right move.
Newell had found himself wearing out during his training camps, and was also concerned about coming up with income streams outside of fighting. So when he stepped away, he gave himself time to heal, and went about opening his Fighting Arts Academy gym in West Haven, Conn.
“I really meant the things that I said,” Newell said. “I felt that my last four training camps in a row my body was shutting down and I wasn’t able to train the way I want to train. While no fighters come into a fight at 100 percent, I was at a very low percent. I was feeling really bad going into these fights. And honestly when I went to train for them, it was my back, my knees, everything. So what I need was, I needed some time off. Time off don’t get paid can’t make living.”
After awhile, Newell started to feel right again, and from there it was a matter of time.
“I’ve been training since the last time I fought,” Newell said. “I just had to kind of figure out my body and ways to do it smarter and see what I can handle. I just really needed that time off. And it was a good thing, because I actually fell better thanI’ve ever been. Teaching, I’ve kind of put an emphasis on my technique it’s got a lot better.”
Eventually, Newell hopes to get the opportunity to show off that technique on the sport’s biggest stage.
“I absolutely know that I’m world class. I know I belong, and I know I can do well even in the UFC. I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and I’m a college wrestler, and with my striking, my footwork is always in the right spot, maybe I don’t always have the multi attacks everyone else has, but I have very good range and now that my body as working as well as it is I really feel like I can take a fight with anyone and not only hold my own but win.”
But for now, he’s simply happy to have to opportunity to get back in the cage, period.
“I’m happy with LFA right now,” Newell said. “I’m ready to make a statement, do my thing, and take it from there.”