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Michael Chandler: Criticisms of Sage Northcutt unfair, stem from jealousy

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Michael Chandler spent a week with Sage Northcutt recently in Florida. Northcutt stayed with Chandler and the two trained together at the Blackzilians gym in Boca Raton.

Chandler, one of the top lightweights in the world, does not share the recent criticism levied at the much-maligned Northcutt nor his father, Mark.

"I was very happy when they reached out to me personally to work with him, because I've got nothing but great things to say about them and their family," Chandler told MMA Fighting.

Two weeks ago, kickboxer Ilya Grad wrote on social media about a training session with Northcutt being a "disaster." Grad said that Northcutt's father is "the worst coach" he had ever seen and described all the things Mark Northcutt did wrong. Grad spoke more about it on The Luke Thomas Show last week. Northcutt's father has since defended himself and his son over those claims.

Chandler, the former Bellator lightweight champion who meets Patricky Freire for the vacant title Friday night at Bellator MMA: Dynamite 2, said anyone who would slam Northcutt publicly like that is a "nerd."

"He's a cool guy," Chandler said. "There's so much jealousy surrounding that kid. There's so much animosity from people that don't even know him. It's unfair. But, at the end of the day, he's been put in a situation where he's in the spotlight and people are jealous of that."

Chandler, 30, said he has spoken to Northcutt's father and has nothing but good things to say. Chandler said he plans on visiting Katy, Texas to work with Northcutt in the future and would be happy to be something of a mentor for the young star.

"They've always been very nice people, respectful people," Chandler said. "Very complimentary. Very nice. I think they're some of the nicest people I've been in contact with, so I've got nothing but good things to say about them."

Northcutt, 20, meets Enrique Marin at UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. He's coming off the first loss off his career to Bryan Barberena at UFC on FOX 18 in January. Northcutt was "discovered" by UFC president Dana White on his UFC Fight Pass show "Lookin' for a Fight."

Immediately, the UFC promoted Northcutt hard and he won his first two UFC fights by finish. Barberena beat him by second-round submission, though, which stoked the fire that maybe Northcutt hadn't been getting attention he earned.

Chandler said it's worth remembering that Northcutt just turned 20 years old and his first three UFC fights came when he was a teenager. Purely from an athletic perspective, Northcutt has immense potential, Chandler said. Northcutt, still a student at Texas A&M, also has a decorated background in karate.

"He has power and just quick-twitch muscles and snaps in all of his techniques," Chandler said. "The guy can move in and out of the pocket and left and right quicker than anybody that I've ever seen. He's relatively green in the sport -- very, very green in the sport. When it comes to the wrestling and the grappling and the submissions, it's all going to be there. He just needs time. Time and the proper guidance. He needs to be around the right people, because obviously he's been thrusted into the spotlight at 19 years old and there's gonna be a lot of people that want a piece of it, there's gonna be a lot of people who want to see him fail. Such is life. That's kind of how it is."

Which is why Chandler has no problem being a kind of advisor to Northcutt moving forward.

"I definitely would not hesitate to help him with anything he needs, because I think this sport needs more people like him," Chandler said. "This sport needs more positive influences. There's no doubt that no matter what Sage decides to do -- whether he just says forget this fight thing and decides he's gonna be a petroleum engineer and do that for his family or he becomes the best fighter of all time, he's gonna be a role model and we need more role models in this sport."