It’s so often the case in sports that you learn more from your losses than your wins and for martial arts sensation, Sage Northcutt, that certainly seems to be the case. The young prodigy has enjoyed more than his fair share of success, starting at a very young age, but after a devastating loss during a ONE Championship debut fight against Cosmo Alexandre in 2019, Northcutt was forced to step away from competition for what became an agonising four-year wait.
Now, “Super” Sage Northcutt is back, and in an exclusive conversation with M&F, explains that he’s learning from his mistakes, in order to dominate once again.
It’s difficult to comprehend that Northcutt has achieved so much and yet is still just 27 years of age. Learning karate from the tender age of 4, the young upstart from Katy, TX, became a blackbelt very early on. “Man, it’s hard to remember because I was so young, but I think it was around 7 years old,” he says of the achievement. “It was a huge accomplishment for me. I had my sister (alongside me) doing martial arts, she was 7 when she started, and she got her blackbelt and I got mine. We stuck together, kind of a family thing, and kept on doing martial arts.”
Indeed, Northcutt’s father; Mark, is also a black belt and has served as Sage’s primary coach throughout an already stellar career as an athlete. His sister, Colbey is an amateur kickboxing champion who has also transitioned to MMA, and younger brother Kai is following closely his siblings footsteps. By the age of 15, Sage was given a place in the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame and at 19, he became the youngest person ever to be featured on the cover of Sport Karate Magazine. With a “Super” record like Northcutt’s, it’s not difficult to see why he earned those accolades. He won 77 youth championships in karate and holds an undefeated record in kickboxing.
Sage Northcutt draws on various disciplines to fight in MMA
“I wrestled in high school,” says Northcutt, as if he didn’t already have his hands full with martial arts. “Mostly just in my senior year. In ninth and tenth grade I was travelling around the world competing in kickboxing and karate on national teams, so my focus was pretty much on the striking at that time, but then towards the end of high school, that’s when I started wrestling. I won the district wrestling championship, went to regional and placed top five in the state (of Texas), and that’s when I started mixing in all the pieces together to fight in MMA.”
When Northcutt made his debut in UFC, he’d already amassed a professional record of 5-0 at 19 years of age. “Something crazy… coming into that, I had never been, that I can remember, to a UFC event,” he says. “So, the first UFC event that I actually went to was the very first event that I’m fighting at.” Incredibly, Northcutt defeated Francisco Trevino by TKO in that debut, earning victory in just 57 seconds. From 2015-2018, he racked up 6 wins and suffered 2 losses before signing with ONE Championship. Here, however, his debut turned out to be a career changing match, when Northcutt was knocked out in the first round, leaving the fighter with several fractures to his face.
“For a good year or so, I was trying to heal up, but I think the biggest thing was like, for me, I don’t like sitting around and not doing anything,” shares Northcutt. “So, I was trying to get out (and) into running, trying to shadow box, you know and the heavy bag. I was trying to do weights (and) do my cardio that was the biggest thing. I think sitting around doing nothing was very hard for me.”
Sage Northcutt earns wisdom in defeat
With so many wins under his belt, Northcutt has found that there’s often more information to be gleaned from being on the losing end. “You know, it was a mistake,” he says frankly regarding that first outing with ONE. “I fought at 155 pounds, (and then) I fought at 170 pounds (in) my last fight in the UFC and went up a weight class. Then I signed with ONE Championship and I went up to 185.” Northcutt understands now that the shift from 155-185 pounds was a massive change. “It was a learning experience for me and that weight class was a very, very big weight class. I think for my frame, my bodyweight … close to 170 would be a good weight class for me.” On May 5, at ONE Fight Night 10, Northcutt will get a chance to put that theory to the test when he faces Ahmed Mujaba (10-2-0) back in the lightweight division.
Northcutt, who has been fit his entire life, didn’t let all that time away allow him to fall out of shape. “So, at a young age, when I was like four or five years old, I was already doing 250 situps and pushups every single day, pretty much,” says the elite athlete. By the time he was 7, that number would go up exponentially; ranging between 500-700. Northcutt says that he first started lifting weight at around 11 years old, so when he was able to return to the gym following the loss against Cosmo Alexandre, he did so with great gusto and re-ignited his passion for pumping iron. “I feel like I was eager to get back out there,” he reflects.
Sage Northcutt fuels himself for success
“I’m eating 2,000 to 2,500 calories of just carbohydrates alone, which is crazy,” says Northcutt, who is currently eating upwards of 4,000 calories per day while remaining ripped and lean. The fighter is sponsored by Trifecta and says that a significant number of his meals come from the company. Northcutt is a big fan of grass-fed steak, but explains that now he’s getting closer to ONE Fight Night 10, he is switching from heavy meats to other protein sources such as salmon and eggs. “Most people (try to) eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, but for me, it’s pretty much double,” says the returning star. “I think it’s because of how much exercise, and cardio, and training I do.” Northcutt is also taking his gut health, and the need for nutrients seriously. He’s eating a lot of vegetables including sauerkraut, which is a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins C and K, along with iron and manganese. This fermented sour cabbage is also thought to balance gut microbiome and boost the immune system. Through another of his sponsors, Redcon1, he supplements with glutamine and amino acids.
The returning warrior is excited about getting back to active MMA competition, especially since ONE Fight Night 10 will take place in his home country with the event emanating from the 1stBank Center in Denver, CO. “I’m super excited,” he says. “Because it’s ONE’s first event in the U.S. I’ve got my U.S. fans engaging, and people overseas are going to tune in. I’m excited to have this fight.”
How to watch ONE Fight Night 10
The full show also featuring Johnson vs. Moraes III in the main event, will be broadcast May 5 on Prime Video with a local start time of 6pm MDT. For more information on ONE Championship, visit: https://www.onefc.com.