Feature film about Milford native Nick Newell opens in theaters

MILFORD — If there is one thing Milford native Nick Newell knows, it’s that a little adversity can’t stop him.

Born with only a partial left arm, Newell still managed to achieve his dream of becoming a professional athlete. Currently a professional fighter signed with Bellator MMA, Newell also owns his own fight gym.

Now, add feature films to his resume.

“Mike DiSalle and Howard Burd approached me, and they had worked on a project previously together, and my story came across them, and they reached out to me to make a movie,” said Newell. “Your story getting made into a feature movie is an opportunity that people usually don’t get.”

The film, “Notorious Nick,” was made as an independent film and it was later picked up by Lionsgate Films.

Notorious Nick was released in theaters Friday.

Newell, 35, said the movie tells his story of how he overcame obstacles to live out his dream.

“It’s not often that an independent film gets picked up by such a big production company like Lionsgate,” said Newell. “Lionsgate saw it and loved it and ran with it. So I think that says a lot about the movie itself.”

Newell said he was thankful that the public has remained interested in his story.

“When people say they want to spend a fortune to make a movie about you, it’s got to be an honor that anyone is interested in what I’m doing,” he said.

Newell was born and raised in Milford, and attended Harborside Elementary, Meadowside Middle School and Jonathan Law High School. It was while he was a wrestler at Jonathan Law, where he was named All-State in 2004, that one of his friends exposed him to mixed martial arts for the first time.

“I was watching fights with him, and I was like, ‘This is really cool. I like it,’” said Newell. “I said I wanted to focus on wrestling for now, but this is something I would like to get into in the future.”

Newell continued wrestling in college, twice being named captain of the Western New England University team. While in college he started training for MMA, which incorporates elements of boxing, wrestling, and other martial arts.

“Once I started getting good, I got the bug, and I was like, you know what, I’m going to give this a go, and I started fighting,” he said. “I didn’t start fighting on a whim, but I decided to put my heart to it, and I decided I was going to work my hardest and see where this takes me.”

Newell proved a quick study. Among his accomplishments, Newell was named the World MMA Awards 2013 Breaththrough Fighter of the Year, the 2012 Northeast MMA Fighter of the Year, the 2012 MMA Uncensored on Spike TV Fighter of the Year, and the 2011 Registered Fighter Awards Fan Favorite Fighter.

Currently, Newell is signed with Bellator MMA. Owned by Viacom Inc., Bellator is the second-largest combat sports promotion in the country with events airing on Showtime.

“I had been fighting for a while, and I always wanted to do Bellator, and I had just won on (a fight card televised on) UFC Fight Pass, which is a big deal,” he said. “I knew Bellator was coming to an arena in Bridgeport, which is the closest to Milford. I thought that it was a big opportunity to fight in a big show and make a name for myself.”

Newell was able sign a deal, win his fight and secure a contract with Bellator.

“I think that anyone’s goal is to fight in a packed arena by your house, and I was able to do that,” he said. “I think a lot of the fans came just to see me, and a lot of the fans left after my fight, which is unfortunate because the rest of the card was great.”

Throughout his career, Newell said he’s faced speed bumps. But, he’s learned that you can’t let adversity stop you from doing what you want to do.

“You have to go out there and give it our all, and you have to give the world the best version of yourself if you want to make it in anything,” he said. “Don’t be content with what you have if there’s something out there that you want.”

Newell said he’s proud to be from Milford, and he continues to represent the city, currently owning and operating Fighting Arts Academy CT on Quarry Road.

And while the gym trains fighters, Newell said the gym maintains a welcoming atmosphere.

“Anyonethat’s want to get into training, learn self-defense, fitness or wants their kid to learn martial arts can come through,” he said.