Sage Northcutt passed his first UFC test with flying colors. The 19-year-old karate phenom smashed through Francisco Trevino in just 57 seconds at UFC 192 on Saturday night, backing up the hype with a highlight-reel performance in front of his hometown fans in Houston, TX.
"He looked unbelievable," UFC President Dana White said on FOX Sports 1. "I love that Trevino was saying, ‘I'm going to smash this hype train.' [Trevino was] 12-1, and Sage looked unbelievable tonight. The crowd went crazy. It was a really fun fight."
Northcutt received a surge of attention in the lead-up to his UFC debut, and ultimately that attention proved to be justified. The young lightweight blitzed Trevino from the opening bell, trapping Trevino along the fence and unloading punches on his wobbled foe. Northcutt then changed levels and dumped Trevino to the canvas, capping his debut off with a furious volley of strikes to push his undefeated record to 6-0.
"Just being in the UFC environment and being in front of the thousands of people who were out there watching, it's everything that I've dreamed of, everything that I've imagined, and everything that I've thought of," Northcutt said at Saturday's post-fight press conference. "I visualized it just like it happened."
Trevino, incensed over what he believed to be an early stoppage, confronted and ultimately shoved referee Herb Dean following the fight's conclusion. UFC executive Dave Sholler afterward called the actions unacceptable, stating that Trevino will be disciplined by the UFC. The Texas state commission will also review Trevino's behavior.
Yet even despite Trevino's poor sportsmanship and the fact that he missed weight by four pounds, Northcutt won't begrudge his opponent for the way he acted.
"It doesn't disappoint me," Northcutt said. "He might not see [the win] as legitimate -- maybe it's because I'm younger? I don't know. But Mr. Dean, Herb Dean, he knows what he's doing. He is the official ref of the UFC, so he knows how to stop his fights and when to let them go, so he has the call. It wasn't my call. It's wasn't Trevino's call or his coach's call. It was ultimately his call, so he knows what he's doing."
Northcutt said afterward that he was injury free and hoped to jump back in action as soon as possible, pointing to either UFC 193 on Nov. 15 or UFC Fight Night 79 on Nov. 28 as ideal landing spots.
"I'm ready right now," he said. "If I could fight two fights in this night, I'd go fight right now. I'm ready, I feel great, I feel strong, no injuries, nothing."
Northcutt's story is quite remarkable. The decorated karate champion predicted his UFC fate when he was the cover athlete of Sport Karate magazine at just nine years old. A decade later those dreams came true, even as he balanced the workload of the petroleum engineering major he's currently studying at Texas A&M University.
Northcutt admitted that in time, he may have to dial back his studies in order to focus his attention 100-percent to mixed martial arts. When that does happen, he plans to take his training to a different level entirely. But for now, Northcutt is content to steadily climb the ladder and wonder why opponents like Trevino dismiss him before ever stepping foot in the cage.
"It could be the hair," Northcutt joked. "I don't know, maybe it's the hair? Maybe it's because I'm smiling all the time? Maybe that's not intimidating. I don't know, but I like being happy. I like smiling. I'm just a happy guy doing this. I'm a bubbly, happy guy. I think this is fun. I know people want to get out there and they're all tattooed up and they're all serious and stuff and ready to fight. I'm ready to fight, but I still have a smile on my face at the same time."