Before Sage Northcutt found himself winning UFC fights as a teenager, he was a youth karate prodigy, winning tournaments all over the world.
So it’s only fitting that the next chapter of the Houston native’s career will find him traveling the planet in search of championships in several martial arts disciplines.
The 22-year old recently ended his free agency by leaving the UFC and joining Asia’s largest promotion, ONE Championship.
And the fact ONE stages competitions in MMA, Muay Thai, and kickboxing played a factor in his decision to sign, as Northcutt says he wants to become a world champion in all three.
“What I think is cool is, they have, not only do they have MMA, but they also have Muay Thai and they have kickboxing,” Northcutt said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour with Luke Thomas. “So, I want to be the champion in MMA, I want to be the champion in Muay Thai and kickboxing. I want to do it all. And I think that ONE Championship is going to be really cool because I believe that I’m going to display my different skills in each of those and I believe be the champ in each of those. I think it’s the perfect league.”
Northcutt, whose three-year UFC journey culminated in a second-round knockout of Zak Ottow at UFC Boise in July, figured to have plenty of suitors as a young and marketable fighter who is only beginning to tap into his potential. This was confirmed by Northcutt needing little time beyond the UFC’s 90-day exclusivity window before signing with the Singapore-based company.
“I was always keeping the options open to see which direction I take,” Northcutt said. “But I knew when I was going to have the Zak Ottow fight there was going to be a 90-day period. I wasn’t sure if the UFC was going to make me wait all 90 days to get back with me about re-signing or if they were going to come in to offer and match what some other league was offering.”
A trip to Singapore to see ONE in person helped cement Northcutt’s opinion.
“It was super cool,” Northcutt said. “There have been a lot of people who have said that actually haven’t seen their events, they were saying, ‘hey Sage, I don’t know if you want to go to ONE because, they may not as big as the UFC is’. But, over there at ONE Championship, they had over 35 million viewers watching the fights ... it’s definitely huge and I thought it was really cool how, when you walked out they had fireworks shooting out through the arena and then when the people that had the title won the ONE championship or defended their title, they had gold confetti everywhere. It was really cool.”
Northcutt’s sunny optimism stands out in the oft-rancorous MMA world, but even he noted the UFC seemed to be putting him on ice a little bit as he headed toward the final fight of his contract, which ultimately ended up being the win over Ottow. On several occasions, as Northcutt and the UFC negotiated, potential bouts fell through or were pushed back.
“Before the fight, actually, the UFC had put me off a little bit,” Northcutt said. “I had scheduled a fight and they had tried to re-sign me, I guess, and we were negotiating with them and they said we’re going to move you to this card, and then the next card, and then it got moved to the next card to another card and then I finally got to fight, so the time frame kept being put off and put off and put off.”
But you’re not going to get Northcutt to badmouth his UFC experience. In the time between his memorable UFC debut in a 57-second knockout of Francisco Trevino in Houston at UFC 192 to the knockout of Ottow, “Super” Sage went through his college years in a very public display.
Along the way, he got shade from fellow fighters for getting opportunities ahead of others, had some high-profile stumbles in the cage, and then went to Team Alpha Male and beginning to mature as a competitors. Along the way, he went 5-0 at 155 pounds.
“I think my favorite moments would be two moments,” Northcutt said. “Coming into the UFC, being the youngest fighter ever to come into the UFC, and winning the most fights being undefeated 5-0 at lightweight in the UFC, and my last fight, going out with a knockout and showing how much I’ve improved since my first fight in the UFC against Zak Ottow.”
Those experiences will serve him well as he heads to ONE, where he’s expected to make a February or March debut, and attempts his ambitious goal of becoming a three-sport champion.