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Journey Newson carries rock-and-roll-inspired name into UFC debut

Journey Newson (pictured) fights Ricardo Ramos in a bantamweight bout at UFC Minneapolis on Saturday
UFC, YouTube

A glance at Journey Newson’s first name would have you assume that his parents knew great things were in their child’s future.

While that turned out to be true, the actual origin of Newson’s name isn’t quite so dramatic.

“My dad really likes Journey the band to be completely honest with you,” Newson recently told MMA Fighting. “They’re a band I listen to to this day and I’ve actually walked out to Separate Ways in one of my amateur fights. That’s basically where he got it from. He’d thought about it for a year before I was born and just thought it was a really good name.”

As for his last name, Newson isn’t quite clear where his lineage traces from. When asked if he felt it had any symbolic meaning especially as he gets set to make his first appearance in the UFC, he had a different take on it.

“I always thought it was too close to ‘nuisance’ and I never really liked that,” Newson said. “But yeah, ‘new born,’ that’s a different way to look at it.’

Saturday marks the first fight of the rest of Newson’s MMA life. Less than two weeks ago, he signed on as a short-notice replacement for an injured Sergio Pettis to take on Ricardo Ramos in a bantamweight contest in the ESPN preliminary headliner of UFC Minneapolis.

And indeed, it has been along—ahem—journey for the 30-year-old Californian who now operates out of Beaverton, Oregon. Newson’s youth growing up in and around Merced, California, was a difficult one as he was put into foster care at an early age, though he is nothing but grateful for the places that took him in and he speaks sympathetically of his parents.

Newson’s mother was dealing with a drug problem and his father did his best to work and keep the family together. At some point Child Protective Services had intervene and assist Newson’s family with their situation.

“I’d say I was probably seven, around seven is when first I first remember. It was just because—I’m not too sure what the situation was, but that’s my earliest memory of CPS coming over and asking me these questions that I really don’t have an answer for,” Newson said.

“They just took me away, it sucks, but it happened.”

He still speaks with both of his parents, his father more than his mother, and though he doesn’t volunteer stories of his life as a foster child, he doesn’t shy away when asked about it either. While Newson hopes to use his platform to inspire other people who have been through foster care, at the moment his focus is on taking his pro career to the next level.

That showed in his most recent fight, an 80-second knockout of Soslan Abanokov at a Final Fight Championship show in Las Vegas this past May.

Working with coach Rudy Garza, Newson has been aiming to evolve beyond his taekwondo and jiu-jitsu roots, and has even taken a few boxing matches in-between MMA fights. The results have been encouraging as he’s won six straight fights, his last two via strikes.

“It was definitely the cleanest punch I’ve ever landed,” Newson said of the Abanokov KO. “It was the most accurate punch, I’d say. I had my direct sight of him and I planted that fake jab to deter him and then that landed for sure.

“It was all my weight, I didn’t really overextend at all, and I kept my eyes on him the whole time, which was probably why it was the most accurate punch. And I threw with commitment.”

Newson laughs as he recalls being so focused on his hands that he neglected defending against leg kicks. He knows he’ll have to be more well-rounded to get past Ramos, a promising Brazilian prospect who has won three of his first four UFC fights.

A win over Ramos would jumpstart Newson’s career in a major way, and he’s thinking that being a late replacement could end up being to his advantage on Saturday.

“They’re definitely throwing me in there on two-weeks’ notice with this type of guy, but I’m more focused on that, it’s just kind of my time to display my skills to the world,” Newson said. “That’s the only thing on my mind right now, just getting this first fight out of the way. And if I make this happen, that’s a big debut, for sure.”

“It will make a big impact,” he continued. “It doesn’t really bother me what ranking he’s at. He’s a ‘35er, I’m a ‘35er, we’re basically at the same level as I see it. Especially with him getting ready for Sergio Pettis, I am a different opponent and I’m hoping that plays a role in my favor with such a short notice coming into the fight.”

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