The return of Sage Northcutt: A comeback four years in the making
May 4, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: 3:42 pm
The last time we saw Team Alpha Male‘s Sage Northcutt in a professional fight, COVID-19 didn’t exist. The world hadn’t gone through a pandemic, Donald Trump was still the president of the United States, and gas prices weren’t breaking the bank.
Now returning to the octagon after four years away, “Super” Sage Northcutt is looking to reintroduce himself to the MMA World in a big way.
“I’m feeling really good. I’m excited to be back. It’s been too long, super pumped for this,” he said with his usual radiant smile.
Since his last bout against Cosmo Alexandre in May 2019, Northcutt (11-3) has been training quietly, waiting for his opportunity to return to the cage. Nothing about his return has come easy though, suffering multiple fractures in his face during the TKO loss to Alexandre that forced him to take almost a year off from intense training.
Those injuries were only half of the battle to get here, as he was scheduled to make his return to ONE Championship in 2021 against legendary Japanese fighter Shinya Aoki. But unfortunately, life (mainly the pandemic) got in the way.
“I had a fight scheduled a year and a half, two years ago, set with Shinya Aoki. And I had been training hard, set to have that fight. And then about a week out before having to fly overseas to Singapore, I got COVID and unfortunately, that fight didn’t go through,” Northcutt explained. “But yeah, I’ve been in training, staying sharp, making sure that I’m ready and it’s been too long. I’m excited to get back out there.”
Professional cage fighting is an unforgiving sport by nature. After joining the UFC in 2015, Northcutt went on to win his first two fights, including a TKO victory over Francisco Trevino. But after some up-and-down years in the octagon, the Texas native took his talents to ONE Championship in 2019.
His start in the new promotion was less than optimistic, suffering his first first-round TKO loss in his professional career. And then he wouldn’t fight for four years, an enormous amount of time for a pro fighter to be absent.
But despite the countless setbacks over the last few years, Northcutt never wavered on his love for the game, eager as ever to prove to the masses that he belongs with the best lightweights in the world.
Chatri Sityodtong sees Sage Northcutt as an extremely rare athlete 😳
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 26, 2023
“If you were to look and ask like my family or coaches that were there. That very day [after the Cosmo fight], like within 24 hours, I was like ‘man, I want to get back out there’,” Northcutt said. “I know I didn’t perform good, wasn’t my night, and I want to get back out there and put on a great performance and have a great career for ONE.”
The mindset partially stems from starting his MMA journey at such a young age.
When Northcutt joined the UFC in 2015, he was 19 years old. Most regional fighters have to grind for several years to make it to the big show, often hitting their prime in the late-20s, or early-30s range.
That’s what makes the recently turned 27-year-old Super Sage so unique. With 14 pro fights already under his belt, he sees this opportunity as a chance to rebrand himself to the world, ready to hit his prime inside the cage.
“Like you said, that is super young, even being 27 right now,” Northcutt admitted. “A lot of pro fighters aren’t fighting professionally until their mid-20s, upper-20s. And I think that fighting for previous organizations that I’ve fought with and having that experience at a young age, definitely is something really cool and that I really enjoyed. It’s pretty crazy to think that it’s been four years since I fought last, and I was so young. My last fight that I had at 23 years old, 22-ish, that’s crazy. So I think I’m still so young, I’m not even in my prime yet. And I’m looking forward to having a strong career.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially for someone without a lot of actual fight experience in the last four years. His next opponent, Ahmed Mujtaba (10-2), is the opposite of Northcutt, fighting twice in the last two years.
Currently on a two-fight finish streak, Mujtaba will be a big test for Northcutt, especially when you consider the infamous “ring rust” that accompanies long layoffs. Regardless, Northcutt feels that thanks to his training with UFC Hall-of-Famer Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male, he’ll be able to dust off the cobwebs in a matter of minutes on fight night.
“I think ring rust really plays a factor for people if they’re out for a while and they’re not doing any training. I think me getting to train and stay sharp and constantly be in the gym surrounded by some of the best fighters. Getting to wrestle with the best wrestlers, grapple the best grapplers, strike with some of the best strikers, that’s really what takes away that ring rust I believe. So I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem for me,” he said.
— Sage Northcutt (@sagenorthcutt) April 27, 2023
The Texas native is also motivated by fighting so close to home in Broomfield, Colo., this Friday.
ONE Fight Night 10 marks the first time the Singapore-based promotion will be stateside, allowing American MMA fans to take in the action in-person. But from Northcutt’s perspective, it’s the first chance his family and friends (outside of his fight camp) will be able to see him compete in four years. The 27-year-old relayed to Sactown Sports that the event has garnered so much attraction that even some close friends were struggling to find tickets to his bout.
The interest only gives him more motivation to exceed expectations, especially fighting on U.S. soil for the first time since 2018. And while some can crumble under that sort of pressure, this is a moment for Northcutt, finally able to show what he has been working on the last 1,448 days away.
A new, and improved, Super Sage Northcutt 2.0.
“I think there’s a lot of stuff in my game that I haven’t got to show yet,” he stated. “Just been kind of getting comfortable with my style and how to really sit down and show different things that I’ve put so much hard effort and work into. So I think now, hopefully in this next bunch of fights, I can start to show those [skills].”
The main card begins at 5 p.m. PST Friday, May 5th. You can catch the action on Amazon Prime Video. The night will be capped off by a flyweight title rematch between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Adriano Moraes.