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Sage Northcutt opens up about training at Tristar Gym, cutting back on college

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a whirlwind ride for Sage Northcutt. The 19-year old seems to have been shot out of canon long before his UFC debut at UFC 192 this month, but things have taken another turn since then.

A recent report suggested the UFC lightweight will spend some time training in Canada at the famed Tristar Gym in Montreal. This week, Northcutt confirmed the news with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.

Business has officially picked up.

"Yes, sir. That's true," Northcutt said Monday. "I leave tomorrow morning, actually, to go to Canada." Judging by his Twitter updates, he's now already there.

According to Northcutt, he can't just up and move to Canada. He's got a home life to worry about for the foreseeable future, but he also wants to take the time to see what Tristar Gym is all about while he thinks about his future.

"Really, I'm just going up there to check it out and see how it goes, see if it's a fit for me, but my jiu-jitsu coach right now is Chris Mango and Ted Stickel in Gracie Barra in Katy. They're awesome. I also have school, too, so I can't go up there and actually live there. I'm just going to go up there for a week or so, check it out, see how it goes."

Northcutt doesn't exactly say whether he was recruited to visit, but that the people at Tristar Gym heard about his fandom of former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Somehow their paths crossed and now he's headed north for a spell to train with the team as well as his idol.

"Actually, they mentioned something that they heard about my fights and obviously, I always talk about how Georges St-Pierre is my favorite fighter," he explained. "I look up to him, so I think it's just perfect timing that I get to go down there and train with him and get to meet them. It's going to be incredible.

"I'm just excited to see him, even if it's one day."

Still, for everything that's going well, some tough choices lie ahead. Northcutt is a student at Texas A&M University. He's noticed the more his fighting career has progressed, the more it becomes difficult to train. That, he confessed, has him already having to dial things back.

"I actually cut back on classes a bit. I believe the minimum amount of hours to be a full-time student was 12 or 13 and I actually cut back a few classes so I could train.

"Like my fight for UFC 192, that was the first time I truly got to train for a fight. That was incredible," he noted. "And then my next fight I'll have even more experience, more training. I can just keep seeing myself going up and up with the more training and technique I learn."

And has there been increased visibility on campus after such a sensational performance on a UFC pay-per-view broadcast?

"Yes, sir," he said with a laugh. "You're right about that. It's pretty cool. I like it. It's awesome."

Even though he's cut back on credit hours for now, the lingering question is what's next? Can he really juggle both even on a slower schedule? As his fighting career picks up, he admitted he's beginning to wonder if taking a break from post-secondary education is the right call.

"Since you mentioned that, I might take a break," he admitted. "Right now, from the first semester, I was taking full-time classes. Now that I'm in my second semester, I noticed that I'm getting to fight for the UFC. Having full-time classes, it doesn't really work out because there's so much workload and so much studying that you really don't have time to train. I'd stay up until two or three in the morning just studying and then I'd have to go get a few miles running, work out at the gym super late and try to get my working out in late at night.

"Now I've cut back on the workload. In the future, too, the more fights I go, you could possibly see me taking a break from school for the year, maybe two years. We'll see how that goes. Then I think I'd be totally different because getting to train full time, it's just going to be completely different."

As far as Northcutt is concerned, taking a break from college isn't ideal, but getting to train full time is. His already bright eyes light up at the possibility of being able to devote himself physically to the game. He knows he's young, which means there's a lot of information to soak up out there. Without the boundaries of college preventing that, Northcutt appears convinced it'd take his already burgeoning career to the next level.

"It would change everything about me," he claimed. "I would be a totally different animal out there in the ring. It could be pretty scary for some opponents. I'm so young, so I have so much to learn."

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