University News

Western New England University Announces 2022 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Published: May 04, 2022 | Categories: All News

Nicholas Newell '08

Nick Newell

Western New England University (WNE) is pleased to announce that on Saturday, May 21, professional Mixed Martial Artist (MMA) Nick Newell will give the keynote address at the 2022 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony. The ceremony will be held at 2:00 p.m. in the Caprio Alumni Healthful Living Center on the University Campus.

Newell will also be presented with the Western New England University President's Medallion by University President Dr. Robert E. Johnson. Established in 2002, the President's Medallion Award is bestowed upon those who have distinguished themselves in a particular field or in service to an important cause that has benefited society locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. The President's Medallion also recognizes men and women in a variety of fields who are role models worthy of emulation by all, particularly by our students at Western New England University.

From an early age, Nick Newell accepted the fact that he was born without a left hand and part of his left arm. What he did not accept was a life with limits.

He tried many sports growing up, including soccer, baseball, and basketball, and was successful in all of them. But what truly interested Newell was the martial arts.

His foray into combat sports was high school wrestling, competing in the 103-pound weight class, where he lost his first 17 bouts. He finished his freshman campaign 2-22. At that point, most people would have quit.

Newell isn't most people, though, and his sophomore year record was 24-12. In his senior year, he made All-State, and he wrestled for four years at Western New England University, winning matches in six different weight classes and being named team captain twice.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication at WNE in 2008 and worked as a master control operator for the History Channel while training day in and day out for his goal of fighting in mixed martial arts. Newell made his debut in 2009 and eventually left his day job to become a professional MMA fighter. After starting his career 11-0, he has amassed a Now a professional MMA fighter, Nick has a 16-4 career MMA record, with 10 of his wins occurring in the first round. He's also the owner and head coach of Fighting Arts Academy (FAA) in Milford, CT.

Newell's story is now the subject of a movie, Notorious Nick, released by Lionsgate in 2021, which details his hard-fought journey and achievements as a one-handed fighter.

"I want to be an example to kids who are like me, or anyone facing adversity, that anything can be done, and it's not where you start, but where you finish," he said. "When you face adversity or have something go wrong, just remember what you're in it for. That message transfers over to everything in life. It's not a fighting thing, it's not a sports thing—it's a life thing, a life lesson."

In addition to serving as a mentor and motivational speaker for the FAA and WNE, Newell is also involved with a number of local and national organizations for youth and adults with limb deformities. He has hosted seminars and training sessions at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland for veterans who have lost limbs, and has also worked to assist children and families through the Lucky Fin Project in Michigan and the Helping Hands Foundation in Massachusetts.