Amputees just looking for a fight


Just 26 and with a creditable — if unexceptional — pedigree in amateur wrestling, Nick Newell is not so fearsome that professional fighters should cower. Yet the list of fighters who have canceled or rejected bouts with him is about two dozen long, and the reason is clear: it can be difficult to persuade able-bodied athletes to fight a man with one hand.

Newell is among the fighters known as adaptive athletes pursuing MMA. Previously relegated to the red-light district of sports culture, MMA has gained mainstream prominence and become a test of toughness embraced by amputees who relish the challenge of modifying the sport’s techniques and surprising those who stereotype them as victims.

“Sometimes an amputation or disability will actually get people to strive to become more than they might otherwise be,” said Jeff Traub, an orthopedist in Atlanta who has worked with amputee fighters. “The amputation has led them to think, Why can’t I do this? It gives them motivation to do more.”

Such ambition has confounded state athletic commissions, the sanctioning bodies that regulate prizefighting and license its participants. In MMA, where even the veterans are frequently pummeled or choked, how do you evaluate the capabilities of a fighter missing part of an arm or leg?

Last August, the Association of Boxing Commissions held its annual conference in Washington. Among the items on the agenda for the first time: dealing with the amputee prizefighter.

“We were starting to hear of quite a few states that were running across the issue,” said Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the association. “Commissioners need to decide — are we putting the fighter in a situation where they could be harmed?”

Dr. Margaret E. Goodman, a former chief ringside physician for Nevada, said in an e-mail: “If they have a medical condition that places them at a disadvantage, then they should not be granted a license to compete. The question is whether or not Mr. Newell adequately circumvents his disadvantage.”

So far, the answer seems to be yes. In six professional bouts, Newell, who does not have a left hand, has rarely been hit or even troubled by opponents. He is scheduled to fight Friday night in Jackson, Tenn., against Chris Coggins, the first opponent in Newell’s pro career with a winning record.

To compensate for his lack of left-handed boxing technique and incomplete defense, Newell focuses heavily on footwork with his trainer Jeremy Libiszewski, working to evade strikes rather than block them. “He cuts angles, punches and gets out,” Libiszewski said.

A congenital amputee, Newell’s left arm ends about three inches past the elbow, which gives him a handhold to complete submissions uniquely difficult to escape. “If he gets you in a choke,” Libiszewski said, you’re in trouble.

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Recent Comments »

Cya site profile image  

4/17/12 7:06 PM by Cya

kickboxing/MT: wrestling: (tho here the missing body part is not an arm, but a leg)

hmeboy site profile image  

4/17/12 4:37 PM by hmeboy

Chris Coggins was 5-1 and coming off 3 straight sub wins when Newell fought him

yusul site profile image  

4/17/12 9:53 AM by yusul

for people who train, our community could accept someone like that entering higher level mma if his skills are legit. HOWEVER, mainstream non mma crowds will not only look down, but see it as a freak show. i challenge anyone with friends who don't know who royce gracie is, to see if they think it's a freakshow when a 1 handed man fights a physically normal man. it will set mma back decades and put it in the category of pro wrestling. however, the real answer will be: does boxing or wrestling allow one handed men to compete? if so, then it's fair to let him get to higher level mma.

Ameri-do-te Master site profile image  

4/17/12 9:32 AM by Ameri-do-te Master

You know I know personally from training with the guy and hearing stories about Nick there are places where they have an advantage with the short limb, when grappling they can lock on submissions an chokes that you normally couldn't get and they are much tighter, also when they do lock on for instance a guillotine or RNC there's no way to defend it. From guard Keith is able to overhook one of your arms and lock in arm bars that you couldn't normally do. I've seen him catch legit black belts in things because he has modified his game to fit him so there is no way to prepare for it or figure out how to counter it in time

Cya site profile image  

4/17/12 6:59 AM by Cya

great quote!I'd say he IS at an disadvantage tho. I don't see how he could not be with missing one hand.but if he's able to overcome that disadvantage and be competetive with "normal" fighters I don't see why he shouldn't be allowed to's really patronizing in a bad way to not allow him.and to those who say this is a lose/lose for his opponents: that's because people like you MAKE it that way.

Baby Monkey Guard site profile image  

4/17/12 6:47 AM by Baby Monkey Guard

I will FUCK UP a dude with no arms and legs!

Ameri-do-te Master site profile image  

4/17/12 6:17 AM by Ameri-do-te Master

The thing with Nick is he has good people backing him, they pick him fights he can win to build him up (not that this is uncommon in MMA) you can't blame him for that, he is getting a lot of publicity over it. The thing I don't like about Nick is he talks about its hard for him to get fights and then an opponent drops out against him so they fill the spot with another guy in his same position and all of a sudden "nick is now unavailable to fight". We are led to believe that he didn't want to risk getting beat and losing the spot light that has been put on him. This fight will have to eventually happen since Keith is about to move to Pennsylvania and they will be fighting on the same region

Ameri-do-te Master site profile image  

4/17/12 5:51 AM by Ameri-do-te Master

You are normally a decent poster so I'm surprised by the amount of ignorance in this post. Both guys are missing hands and part of their for arms, there is still enough there to block kicks to the body.And if they lose pretty badly then what? They are going to give up MMA and quit training?

mestregruber site profile image  

4/15/12 12:28 PM by mestregruber

Anthony Kaponis was 4-3 when he fought Newell, so the part about Newell never fighting anyone with a winning record was incorrect. That said, the guys he has fought so far do not have an impressive overall record. He's not in the position to choose his opponents, however.Big fan of Newell, and he is a really nice guy in person. I feel for him that he can't get opponents, but the unfortunate truth is that many fighters view fighting him as a lose-lose. He took a step up in competition on Friday and performed well, an incredibly gutsy performance.*Edited due to reading comprehension fail

Pride Rules site profile image  

4/15/12 11:47 AM by Pride Rules

 someone needs to just beat the shit out of him one good time IMO kick him in the ribs like anderson silva on the side where he has no arm.