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Sage Northcutt responds to ‘completely weird' sparring accusations by Ilya Grad

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Earlier this month, UFC prospect Sage Northcutt found himself the unexpected target of criticism when Muay Thai champion Ilya Grad posted a scathing attack against Northcutt's father, Mark, over an alleged sparring session gone wrong.

In a lengthy post on social media, Grad called Northcutt's father "probably the worst coach I've seen in my life" and warned that if Northcutt wanted to flourish in mixed martial arts, "tell your dad to stay away from your fight camp so you could actually get some training done." The post quickly went viral and video of the sparring session released online. In the aftermath, Mark Northcutt adamantly refuted the claims with his own version of events, while Grad doubled down on his original words on The Luke Thomas Show, stating that the 20-year-old Northcutt had to leave for a "serious gym" to get the most of his fighting career.

As for Northcutt himself, who fights Enrique Marin on July 9 at UFC 200, he said the situation with Grad was not only wholly untrue, but also "completely weird."

"That was my first time training with him, and he's supposed to be a Muay Thai world champion. I'm not sure where he got his world title from," Northcutt said Monday on The MMA Hour. "As you could see from the fight, I actually showed up there -- my jiu-jitsu coach, my grappling coach set it all up. So I was supposed to go there and spar hard, and he starts making excuses saying his neck hurts, he's this, he's that and he can't spar, so we said okay.

"So I'm out there just toying around, as you could see in the video, barely touching him, just moving around, playing, pretty having fun, as you could see. And the comments he said, the things he said out there, those weren't true. None of those were true, and you could see that from the video."

Grad's post and the subsequent video of the sparring session blew up online, in large part, because of Northcutt's rising star within the UFC. The young lightweight has already fought three times inside the Octagon, winning his first two fights via stoppage before stumbling to Bryan Barberena in January.

Northcutt said on Monday that he isn't sure why Grad made the claims that he did, but that he wouldn't be surprised if it was just meant to be an attention grab from Grad himself.

"For him to say that he was there to teach me, he wasn't there to teach me anything," Northcutt said. "From that video, you could see that he couldn't teach me anything. Like, he was just there to be a sparring partner.

"That was definitely not right of him to do that," Northcutt added. "I don't know what he's talking about. None of that, none of the facts or anything that he was trying to claim were true. So, I believe that he was just trying to get some limelight from us and get some attention and get his name out there."

Northcutt said he has not talked to Grad since the incident and he does not plan to do so in the future. He noted that the sparring session was only a "one-off," and asked that anyone looking to criticize watch the video for themselves before they pass judgement.

"(That's) the first time that's happened," Northcutt said. "And like I said earlier, there's people who are always, they're trying to get attention. They might be saying negative stuff, but you know, I know what's true. The people around me know what's true."