Sage Northcutt might be MMA’s sunniest optimist.
But after a year-plus plagued by strep throat and illnesses which would come, go, and return worse than before, even he started to have his doubts -- particularly when he dropped two of his three fights in 2016.
“I was a little worried because I would train very hard, I’d been feeling great, and then out of nowhere, I’d get kind of sick, all of a sudden,” Northcutt said on Tuesday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “Of course, as anybody would do who fights, especially a UFC fighter, they would try to train through it, so I would train through it, and then it would just run my body down more and more.”
But Northcutt finally has his issues resolved, taking care of the root cause, infected tonsils, by having them removed about a month ago. And with a clean bill of health, he’s looking forward to unveiling Sage 2.0 at UFC 214, where he’ll meet Claudio Puelles in a lightweight matchup.
“I had my tonsils removed about 4-1/2 weeks ago, so that’s all healed up,” Northcutt said. “I should be better than ever, stronger than ever, shouldn’t be getting sick anymore, so I’m excited about that.”
Northcutt detailed his trials and tribulations over the past year and a half, dating back to his January 2016 loss to Bryan Barberena.
“During my first loss in the UFC, I did have really bad strep throat and ... it was very horrible,” Northcutt said. “But then throughout that, after the fights, the next few fights I did have after that, even though I didn’t have strep throat the day of the fight, it might have been a week before the fight or two weeks before the fight, but throughout the fight camp and throughout the different camps for my fights that I had the last few fights, I was very sick. So, I would get sick, I would heal up, get sick again.”
Like any fighter worth his salt, Northcutt did his best to push through his illness and get to the other side, but he quickly found it had diminishing returns.
“Your whole body’s fatigued,” Northcutt said. “If anybody’s ever had strep throat, it’s like the worst kind of strep throat. It was actually eating holes in my tonsils so if you looked at a picture, they looked like little pits in my tonsils. And what happened was, different antibiotics would kill off the bacteria, but it wouldn’t kill off all 100 percent of it, so it would come back stronger, come back stronger and stronger again, and it would just affect my whole body, my strength, my speed, my cardio, my breathing, the amount of pressure that you have on your throat, the fatigue of the muscles, just everything. If I had it for the day of the fight, that was horrible, if I had it weeks before the fight or a month before the fight, it would take me out for weeks of my training and just affect me all around.”
Northcutt compared life before and after the surgery to that of a car and its exhaust pipe.
“It’s kind of like a car, if you think about it,” Northcutt said. “You have an exhaust pipe on the car, and imagine you have a restrictor plate. And you have a tiny hole, and you’re trying to breath and the engine’s trying to breathe and you have all the air trying to come through the engine, and that restrictor on your plate it goes to your exhaust, there’s no air going through there, it’s like a little straw on them, now all of a sudden you remove that, you listen to how much louder your car is, how much better it can breathe, you add horsepower, you add torque, it improves the fuel economy, the whole entire car, so kind of the same thing.”
Now Northcutt’s back on his feet, and ready to push forward. His fight with Peru’s Puelles will be contested at 155 pounds, after both of his losses came at 170. He’s got a feeling this will be his home weight class for awhile.
“You know, I just went up to fight that fight at 170 and I think 155 is my weight class for now that I’ll be at,” Northcutt said. “I’m walking around a little bit lighter, so that way I make the weight easier. I’m stronger, I should be faster, and not have to struggle to make that weight cut at 155. So hat should all work out great.”
While he’s trained up at Montreal’s TriStar, and up in Missouri with Tyron Woodley in recent years, he’s staying home for this one, training at Houston’s Paragon Training Center.
And after all’s he’s been through, he’s just glad to have a role on what figures to be one of the bigger cards of the summer, headlined by Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones.
“I think it was for the best,” Northcutt said, “and now, UFC 214 Jon Jones and Cormier for the main event, I’m excited for that, are you kidding?”