Baseball's Jim Abbott inspired one-handed Nick Newell (2024)

Baseball's Jim Abbott inspired one-handed Nick Newell (1)
  • Nick Newell was born with just one hand
  • He was inspired by one-handed Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott
  • Abbott says he is now inspired by Newell%2C who is undefeated in MMA

Nick Newell was a young boy when he first met Jim Abbott, the former Major League Baseball pitcher who, like Newell, was born with only one hand. Even then Newell knew it probably wasn't a particularly memorable encounter for Abbott, though it certainly was for him.

"I can only imagine how many one-handed kids he's met throughout the years," Newell, 27, tells USA TODAY Sports. "I've met a ton myself, and I can't remember every single one. But seeing him, that motivated me to know that I can be what I want."

It's fitting, then, that all these years later it's Newell (10-0), an undefeated mixed martial arts fighter, who is motivating Abbott.

"Whenever I met kids like him, I didn't always know if they even liked baseball, but I knew that it seemed like they had something they really liked," says Abbott, 46, who spent the majority of his MLB career pitching for the California Angels. "This is his passion, and he basically just says, 'Let me prove what I can do.' I find that really inspiring."

So do many of Newell's fans, who have swelled in number as he climbed through the MMA ranks from smaller regional shows to the Las Vegas-based World Series of Fighting, where he will compete for the second time when he takes on fellow lightweight Sabah Fadai (7-2) at WSOF 7 in Vancouver on Saturday (NBC Sports, 9 p.m. ET).

But despite Newell's success, he faces a brand of backlash that Abbott acknowledges he never had to deal with in baseball. While Abbott always felt fans were rooting for him throughout his career, Newell struggles to win over those who assume that a one-handed fighter could never be an elite competitor at the sport's highest levels.

"It's always going to be like that," Newell says. "I can go 50-0 and be No. 1 in the world, but as soon as I lose a fight, there will be those people saying, 'See? I told you he couldn't do it.' There are a lot of people out there who don't want to see me succeed, but there are also a lot of people who do want to see me succeed."

Abbott, of course, falls into the latter category. He has been a vocal supporter of Newell on Twitter, and the two recently reunited for a video interview together, marking the first time they had met in person since Newell was a child.

"He was a hero of mine," Newell says. "Seeing him, that shaped me."

Before the Internet, Newell points out, there weren't many opportunities for congenital amputees like himself to find role models who had overcome similar obstacles, especially in the world of pro sports.

Watching Abbott succeed as a pro baseball player inspired Newell to pursue his goals, first in amateur wrestling, then in MMA.

It also helped him stay firm in his resolve when naysayers told him that a one-handed man simply couldn't fight for a living.

"Every time I fight, people say, 'Well, you can't beat this guy or fight at this level.' I just kind of dismiss it, because I know I can," Newell says. "On my day, I can compete with anyone in the world and beat anyone in the world."

He'll get no argument from Abbott. Although he isn't much of a fight fan and "couldn't tell you the first thing about (MMA)," Abbott says, "I am a fan of Nick's, and I know he's been having real success despite some doubters out there. I'm really proud of what he's done."

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Baseball's Jim Abbott inspired one-handed Nick Newell (2024)


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