Imagine a young Steven Seagal, mixed with a little Texas A&M Johnny Manziel and a Tommy (The Green Power Ranger) aura of coolness. That is the best way to describe Sage Northcutt.
Now place him in an octagon with millions of people watching on television and you have the recipe for something special.
Sage Northcutt received the largest ovation at the UFC Fight Night 80 open workouts at the MGM Grand and that came as no surprise. Late-80’s movie star looks, shredded physique and youthful exuberance combine to make Sage one of the stars of this week.
As Sage made his way to the mat he took time to greet the fans that lined the barricades in front of the MGM Grand sports book. A smile on his face because at 19-years old he doesn’t treat media obligations as a chore, he embraces every part of the process.
“It’s an honor to just be in the workout, I’m just blessed to be here and that sure was fun,” said Northcutt.
Fighters are allotted 30 minutes for their workouts and media interviews but Northcutt spent all of 5 on the mat. He wasn’t there to stretch or train, he was there to give his fans a show. He showcased some of his acrobatic kicks and flips before heading to his media interview. It wasn’t much but it was just enough to let everyone know they were witnessing something special.
— Kel Dansby (@KelDansby) December 8, 2015
What makes Sage special goes far beyond his years of MMA training. This is a teenager that has an undefeated MMA record and a UFC victory, yet he stills attends college course at Texas A&M.
“So I’m really trying to find out how everything is going and take it one fight at a time. It’s very possible in the future that I take a break from school to train fulltime.”
Sage is a rarity. A kid that enjoys being a kid and wants to remain grounded as everything swells around him. He knows the magnitude of the UFC and he knows that his talents will soon push him into the professional lifestyle but for now he says that he has to think about this fight and the finals he has to take next week. When you see a young athlete with so much promise it’s hard not to brace yourself for the fall. At 19, athletes go through ups-and-downs and over exposure of young athletes is a major concern in today’s sports climate. Freddy Adu, Greg Oden, Johnny Manziel; these were all talented young athletes that were projected as future stars but fell short of expectations. It’s tough for some young athletes to bounce back from trials and tribulations when all they’ve been fed is praise and success. In that regard, Northcutt seems cut from a different cloth. Sage welcomes the challenges and embraces the journey.
“No way, no, theres no part of me that says that. I want more, so if I get to fight next month and I’m safe, protected and injury free I’m ready to fight,” beamed Sage.
Sage’s every move is now captured by a photo or video. Whether he’s taking a picture shirtless, which is often requested by his fans, or bending frying pans; Sage is constantly in the public eye.
He’s even been invited to train at one of the best MMA gyms in the world, Tristar. Home to Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald, Tristar is known for taking athletic strikers and turning them into excellent MMA fighters. It was just 5 years ago that Rory was the super talented 21-year old making his UFC debut. He won that fight but lost his follow-up by TKO to Carlos Condit. He rebounded, and today both he and Condit are among the best fighters in the division.
GSP went through his own ups-and-downs in his career. Losing his first title shot against Matt Hughes, returning two years later to capture the belt in the rematch and then losing it in his very next fight to Matt Serra. Still GSP kept grinding and recaptured the title, first as an interim and then by TKOing Serra in the unification.
There’s no greater teacher than experience and for Northcutt there are no greater peers than St-Pierre and MacDonald.
MMA isn’t designed for young fighters to succeed. Only the supremely talented one, such as Jones & Aldo, have been able to capture belts at a young age and defend them with little adversity. Can Sage be that good? Yes. Will he disappear if he stumbles along the way? I find it highly unlikely.
That pressure is too much for some but Sage seems to have everything in place to thrive under the bright lights.